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Call  No.8g&-.3  Accesiion  No.OR.  f  2*/f  * 

Author 

Title 


This  book  should  be  returned  on  or  bctorc  the  date  last 
marked  below. 


A  BOOK  OF  CONTEMPORARY 
SHORT  STORIES 


THE   MACMILLAN   COMPANY 

NEW   YORK   •    BOSTON    •    CHICAGO   •    DALLAS 
ATLANTA    •    SAN    FRANCISCO 

MACMILLAN   &    CO.,    LIMITED 

LONDON    •    BOMBAY   •    CALCUT1A 
MELBOURNE 

THE   MACMILLAN   COMPANY 

OF  CANADA,  LIMITED 

TORONTO 


A       BOOK.       OF 
CONTEMPORARY 

SHORT 
STORIES 

EDITED  BY  DOROTHY  BREWSTER,  PH.D. 

ASSISTANT  PROFESSOR  OF   ENGLISH   AT  COLUMBIA  UNIVERSITY 
IV  LW    YORK    CITY 

With  an  Appendix  on  writing  the  Short  Story  by 
LILLIAN  BARNARD  GILKES 


NEW     YORK 

THE  MACMILLAN  COMPANY 
1936 


COPYRIGHT,  1936, 
THE  MACMILLAN  COMPANY 


ALL    RIGHTS     RESERVED 


Published  December,  1936 


SET   UP  AND   ELECTROTYPED    BY   T.    MOREY    &   SON 
•PRINTED    IN    THE    UNITED    STATES    OF    AMERICA* 


INTRODUCTION 

WHEN  the  material  was  selected  for  The  Book  of 
Modern  Short  Stories,  published  by  The  Mac- 
millan  Company  in  1928,  the  chief  interest  for 
several  years  in  that  field  had  been  centred  upon  new 
devices  in  technique,  as  part  of  the  reaction  against 
standardization  and  formula.  A  story,  it  was  pointed  out, 
might  have  an  emotional  pattern  instead  of  a  plot;  it 
might  rely  for  its  effect  upon  mood  instead  of  action;  it 
might  drift  off  down  the  stream  of  consciousness  instead 
of  cracking  the  whip  of  the  surprise  ending.  That  col- 
lection, therefore,  was  planned  to  illustrate  different  ways 
of  handling  material,  in  stories  ranging  from  one  extreme 
to  the  other  of  the  types  once  defined  in  a  book  review  by 
Virginia  Woolf:  on  the  one  hand,  the  self-sufficient  and 
compact  type,  in  the  manner  of  the  French  masters,  with 
no  thread  left  hanging,  the  last  sentence  often  lighting  up 
the  whole  circumference  of  the  tale;  and  on  the  other 
hand,  the  "loosely  trailing  rather  than  tightly  furled'* 
type,  in  the  manner  of  Chekhov,  the  stories  moving  slowly 
out  of  sight  "  like  clouds  in  the  summer  air,  leaving  a  wake 
of  meaning  in  our  minds  which  gradually  fades  away." 

Since  the  appearance  of  the  1928  collection,  the  annual 
volumes  edited  by  Mr.  E.  J.  O'Brien  and  the  O.  Henry 
Memorial  Committee,  besides  all  the  anthologies  that  are 
occasional  rather  than  perennial,  have  continued  to  take 
excellent  care  of  the  general  run  of  interesting  con- 
temporary short  stories.  Meanwhile  the  preoccupation 
of  critics  has  been  shifting,  as  the  third  decade  of  the 
century  has  moved  on  into  the  fourth,  from  form  to 
subject-matter;  or  rather — since  no  serious  critic  regards 
form  and  subject-matter  in  any  other  light  than  as  two 


I  n  trodu  ction 

aspects  of  the  same  entity — the  emphasis  has  shifted. 
And  with  the  shifting  of  emphasis  there  have  developed 
sharp  conflicts  of  opinion.  Just  as  in  politics  it  has  be- 
come more  and  more  difficult  for  the  indifferent  and  the 
neutral  to  avoid  being  drawn  to  the  Right  or  to  the  Left, 
so  in  criticism  lines  of  battle  have  been  formed  on  what 
had  been  only  a  pleasant  parade-ground.  The  attack 
comes  from  the  critics  of  the  Left:  from  Marxians  in  New 
Masses  and  International  Literature  to  such  young  revo- 
lutionary poets  as  Stephen  Spender  and  C.  Day  Lewis, 
they  all  have  been  insisting  upon  the  obligation  of  the 
artist,  especially  the  writer,  to  concern  himself  with  the 
dominant  issues  of  the  day;  with  the  way  society  is  going, 
or  might  go,  or  should  go.  In  any  era  this  obligation  ex- 
ists, they  say.  But  it  is  less  binding  during  periods  of 
relative  stability.  Stability,  however,  is  far  from  char- 
acterizing our  era,  filled  as  it  is  with  the  prospects  and 
portents  of  revolutionary  change  and  counter-revolu- 
tionary regression. 

The  attack  is  met  by  those  who  disagree  profoundly 
with  such  a  view  of  the  artist's  obligation.  To  their  mind 
his  duty  is  to  keep  himself  as  far  as  possible  detached  from 
the  current  discontents  and  to  remain  beyond  or  above 
the  battle.  As  the  first  group  of  critics  urge  descent  into 
the  Red  Square  of  conflict — into  the  streets,  comrades! — 
those  of  the  opposing  camp  counsel  retreat  to  an  ivory 
tower  of  contemplation.  The  dust  of  the  controversy  gets 
into  our  eyes  and  settles  on  the  books  and  pictures  over 
which  the  dispute  is  waged.  It  is  a  small  inconvenience  in 
comparison  with  the  mental  stimulation  of  the  battle,  but 
it  does  demand  that  we  do  a  good  deal  of  dusting-off .  Such 
an  office  this  present  anthology  is  intended  to  perform  for 
certain  kinds  of  stories.  Here  are  the  best  examples  the 
editor  could  find  (without  restriction  as  to  country,  so  far 
as  translations  were  available)  of  what  may  be  roughly 
labelled  ivory  tower  stories,  and  the  best  of  those  with 

vi 


Introduction 

revolutionary  themes  or  implications.  After  reading  them 
and  enjoying  them  and  contrasting  the  two  groups  in 
theme  and  treatment,  we  shall  have  a  better  idea  of  the 
issues  at  stake  in  criticism. 

In  the  introduction  to  Francis  Thompson's  essay  on 
Shelley,  George  Wyndham  says:  "The  older  I  get,  the 
more  do  I  affect  the  two  extremes  of  literature.  Let  me 
have  either  pure  Poetry,  or  else  the  statements  of  actors 
and  sufferers."  This  quotation  may  serve  as  a  formulation 
of  the  Ivory  Tower,  Red  Square  contrast.  Actors  and 
sufferers  are  more  likely  to  be  on  the  squares,  fighting  and 
making  statements,  than  in  the  towers,  distilling  poetry 
from  life.  To  those  wide  fields  of  literary  expression  in 
between  the  two  extremes  belong  most  of  the  stories  in  the 
1928  collection.  The  experience  they  reflect  has  neither 
the  remoteness  we  associate  with  ivory  towers  nor  the  im- 
mediacy of  fighting  at  the  barricades.  They  deal  rather 
with  those  emotions  and  incidents  that  show  very  little 
fundamental  change  from  generation  to  generation.  One 
can  read  them  without  being  bothered  about  where 
society  is  going  and  even  without  wondering  very  much 
about  the  social  order  that  conditioned  the  particular  ex- 
perience. Such  stories,  recording  physical  and  spiritual 
adventures  that  might  happen  to  almost  anybody,  any- 
where, in  any  period,  lie  between  the  extremes  which 
divide  the  present  collection  into  two  parts. 

In  choosing  stories  illustrative  of  these  extremes,  I 
ruled  out  from  "the  statements  of  actors  and  sufferers" 
that  direct  advocacy  of  causes  and  theories  which  belongs 
to  the  platform,  and  that  sensational — however  authen- 
tic— violence  of  incident  which  belongs  to  the  field  of 
"reportage."  And  in  the  other  group  I  set  aside  as  not 
to  my  purpose  the  stylistic  experiments  where  the  poets 
talk  to  themselves  rather  than  to  the  reader;  I  include  no 
"pigeons  on  the  grass,  alas."  I  had  no  preconceived  ideas 
about  the  differences  that  would  appear  when  the  two 

vii 


Introduction 

groups  were  confronted,  and  I  am  going  now  to  leave 
most  of  them  for  the  reader  to  discover.  But  no  one  can 
miss  the  quality  of  remoteness  from  present  urgencies  in 
the  first  group;  a  remoteness  of  theme  or  mood  or  both, 
which  comes  from  looking  back  to  the  past,  near  or  dis- 
tant; or  from  exploring  rare  emotional  states,  or  very 
exceptional  personalities;  or  from  turning  up  the  soil  of 
primitive  impulses  and  acts  that  lie  beneath  familiar  sur- 
faces, like  the  buried  city  of  Miss  Porter's  story  under  the 
revolutionary  disturbances  of  modern  Mexico.  Some- 
times it  derives  merely  from  an  atmosphere  of  withdrawn 
leisure  in  which  the  nice  shades  and  the  fine  feelings  may 
be  tracked  down  and  fixed  in  a  lovely  phrase  or  image. 
The  tempo  in  this  group  is  slower  than  in  the  other.  The 
stories  are  longer:  although  there  are  but  fourteen  of  them 
as  against  the  twenty-two  in  the  second  section,  the  num- 
ber of  words  in  each  section  is  about  the  same.  It  is  in- 
teresting— and  the  result  of  no  intention  on  the  editor's 
part — that  over  half  in  the  first  group  are  concerned  with 
the  old,  the  dying,  the  very  young.  They  are  full  of 
reverie,  dreaming,  retrospect;  with  few  exceptions,  the 
people  in  them  have  their  eyes  turned  within  rather  than 
without.  The  people  in  the  other  group,  however,  are 
mostly  adults  in  the  full  tide  of  living,  with  their  gaze 
directed  outward.  And  for  riots,  arrests,  fighting,  violent 
death,  executions,  mass  excitements,  we  must  leave  the 
tower  for  the  square. 

Into  the  tower  world,  nevertheless,  come  echoes  of  the 
conflict  in  the  square.  Schnitzler  lays  the  scene  of  his 
play,  The  Green  Cockatoo ,  in  a  Paris  tavern  on  the  eve  of 
the  fall  of  the  Bastille.  To  this  tavern  in  the  slums  certain 
jaded  aristocrats  used  to  come  in  search  of  novel  sensa- 
tions, cleverly  provided  by  the  proprietor,  an  ex-actor. 
Each  night  he  staged  an  apparently  impromptu  Grand 
Guignol  kind  of  show,  with  crimes  of  passion  enacted  by 
players  who  appeared  until  the  denouement  to  be  au- 

viii 


Introduction 

thentic  bravos  and  prostitutes  of  the  lower  world.  Such  a 
performance  was  in  progress  on  this  night,  as  the  mob 
gathered  headway  outside  in  the  streets.  By  dramatic 
coincidence  the  mock  intrigues  of  the  play-world  and  a 
fatal  complication  of  the  real  world,  involving  a  marquis, 
a  courtesan,  and  one  of  the  actors,  become  so  intertwined 
that  the  players  themselves  are  lost  between  truth  and 
illusion,  and  an  actual  murder  is  the  climax.  Even  as  a 
knife  thrust  kills  the  marquis,  the  thunder  of  triumphant 
revolution  is  at  the  door  of  the  tavern. 

In  similar  fashion  we  see  in  some  of  the  stories  of  the 
first  section  the  threat  or  the  actual  impact  of  an  invading 
world  of  change  and  violence.  Puryear's  Hornpipe  offers 
only  a  mild  intimation,  conveyed  by  the  figure  of  the 
" relief  lady"  at  the  country  store,  of  difficulties  coming 
closer  and  closer  to  the  mountain  folk  in  the  secluded  Vir- 
ginia valley.  In  /  Shall  Decline  My  Head,  the  old  man, 
emerging  briefly  from  the  fantasy  of  wish-fulfillment  which 
at  last  possesses  him  completely,  takes  part  in  a  drawing- 
room  discussion  of  impending  revolutionary  change;  but 
his  contribution  is  only:  all  this  has  been  before — there  is 
nothing  new.  Buchmendel,  Stefan  Zweig's  old  bibliog- 
rapher, is  destroyed  by  the  cruel  enmities  of  a  world  to 
the  very  existence  of  which  his  own  rare  gift  had  blinded 
him.  In  The  Old  Chevalier  it  is  the  Paris  Commune  of  1871 
which  creates  the  conditions  and  the  atmosphere  that 
make  possible  the  adventure  the  old  man  recalls  with 
such  melancholy  tenderness,  though  the  adventure  itself 
is  purely  romantic.  And  in  Rest  Cure,  the  writer  on  his 
Riviera  terrace  (an  obvious  prototype  of  D.  H.  Lawrence), 
fighting  against  the  death  he  feels  approaching,  calls  on 
his  father  to  save  him — the  father  he  had  always  resented 
and  thought  he  could  do  without,  who  has  the  miner's 
lamp  strapped  around  his  head  and  who  brings  with  him 
the  dark  and  blind  strength  of  the  world  below  the  sunlit 
surface. 


IX 


Introduction 

In  the  remoteness  of  theme  and  the  elaboration  of  treat- 
ment that  mark  such  stories  as  these,  Left  critics  see  at 
work  an  " escapist"  psychology.  The  term  conveys  op- 
probrium and  often  irritates  those  to  whom  it  is  applied. 
So  it  becomes  important  to  distinguish  between  the  point 
of  view  of  the  author  and  that  of  the  characters  he  has 
chosen  to  depict.  The  editor  is  making  no  allegations 
about  escape  to  ivory  towers  on  the  part  of  the  authors. 
They  may  share  the  belief  that  it  is  their  duty  to  turn 
aside  from  the  conflicts  of  the  moment  for  the  sake  of  af- 
firming the  eternal  values.  Or  they  may  simply  find 
"escapist  psychology"  in  other  people  a  fascinating  theme 
for  artistic  interpretation.  It  may  move  them  to  pity  or  to 
poetry  or  to  laughter,  but  is  in  no  manner  to  be  confused 
with  their  own  way  of  meeting  life.  As  a  suggestion  of 
how  complicated  a  matter  the  author's  relation  with  his 
theme  may  be,  consider  the  reasons  a  writer  like  Naomi 
Mitchison  gives  for  choosing  to  write  about  ancient 
Sparta,  or  Caesar's  Gaul,  or  imperial  Rome.  Discussing 
historical  fiction  in  The  Saturday  Review  (April  27,  1935) 
she  says:  "Why  then  had  I  got  to  choose  this  period  (first 
century  B.  c.)?  Because  my  mind  was  all  stirred  up  with 
the  troubles  in  Ireland  in  my  own  year  of  grace — 1921 — 
and  the  injustices  committed  by  the  Black  and  Tan  troops 
during  the  British  military  occupation.  Yet  I  didn't  want 
to  write  directly  about  Ireland.  I  didn't  feel  as  though  I 
could.  The  creative  part  of  my  mind  jibbed  at  that,  per- 
haps because  it  was  too  afraid — it  wanted  to  keep  out  of 
the  too  real,  too  hard,  too  cruel  world,  for  as  long  as  I 
would  let  it.  After  all,  I,  with  my  generation,  had  been 
through  the  World  War;  we  wanted  rest  from  the  present." 
But  in  many  of  her  stories  we  are  aware  that  Mrs.  Mitchi- 
son, tracing  out  the  old  patterns  of  Sparta  or  Scythia,  is 
making  an  indirect,  yet  penetrating,  comment  upon  the 
present.  In  Black  Sparta,  for  example,  a  story  more  ab- 
sorbing and  significant  than  the  delicate  idyl  reprinted  in 


Introduction 

this  collection,  but  too  long  for  the  limits  set,  the  claim  of 
his  State  upon  the  young  Spartan's  innermost  thoughts 
and  feelings  arouses  in  him  a  resistance  as  inexplicable  to 
himself  as  to  those  around  him.  He  aids  the  escape  of  a 
helot,  who  had  moved  him  to  unauthorized  compassion 
and  to  dangerous  thoughts.  His  predicament — the 
struggle  between  loyalty  to  something  within  himself 
and  loyalty  to  the  State — is  better  understood  now  than 
then;  volumes  of  ethical  and  political  discussion  are 
ranged  on  both  sides  of  the  question  that  tore  at  the 
young  Spartan  like  the  famous  hidden  fox  of  the  legend. 
But  though  better  understood,  it  is  a  no  less  bitter  pre- 
dicament for  many  thousands  of  the  actors  and  sufferers 
in  the  contemporary  class-divided  State. 

Mrs.  Mitchison's  tower,  then,  is  rather  like  that  de- 
scribed by  Andre  Gide  in  explaining  his  inability  to  take 
part  in  the  political  activities  of  Communism  in  spite  of 
his  sympathy  with  its  aims:  "I  do  not  insist  that  the 
tower  where  I  take  refuge  be  of  ivory.  But  I  am  worth 
nothing  if  I  leave  it.  Tower  of  glass;  observatory  where  I 
receive  all  rays  of  light,  all  waves  of  sound;  fragile  tower 
where  I  feel  myself  badly  sheltered;  sheltering  I  would 
rather  be  without;  vulnerable  on  all  sides;  confident  in 
despite  of  everything,  with  eyes  set  towards  the  east." 
(Pages  de  Journal  Jp2p-/pj2.)  Passages  in  Mrs.  Mitchi- 
son's Vienna  Diary  dispel  any  notion  that  in  turning  to 
the  past  for  her  themes  she  is  evading  the  challenge  of  the 
present. 

All  but  half  a  dozen  of  the  stories  in  this  collection  are 
strictly  contemporary;  they  are  of  this  decade  of  the 
1930*8;  and  of  the  remaining  half  a  dozen  only  two  are 
of  a  date  earlier  than  the  1920*5.  A  word  remains  to  be 
said  about  the  reason  for  including  these  two:  The  Princess 
by  Anton  Chekhov,  and  The  Altar  of  the  Dead  by  Henry 
James,  both  written  before  the  turn  of  the  century. 
James's  story  concludes  the  first  section  and  Chekhov's 

xi 


Introduction 

opens  the  second — and  with  intention.  That  altar  blazing 
with  candles,  piously  tended  and  consecrated  to  the  dead, 
may  be  regarded  as  symbolic  of  values  guarded  in  ivory 
towers.  Few  would  wish  those  flames  extinguished.  And 
to  keep  them  alight  in  the  turmoils  that  threaten  or  are 
already  upon  us  may  exact  as  intensive  and  dedicated  a 
purpose  as  that  which  animated  Henry  James's  odd 
elderly  hero.  One  can  become  a  communist,  said  Lenin 
in  a  sentence  placed  as  a  reminder  in  a  Crimean  palace 
that  is  now  a  library  and  museum  for  citizens,  one  can 
become  truly  a  communist  only  when  the  memory  has 
been  enriched  with  all  that  has  been  achieved  by  hu- 
manity. If  the  word  communist  makes  of  this  too  special 
a  plea,  put  it  this  way:  only  on  that  condition  can  one  go 
on  into  the  future  with  hope. 

What,  beyond  the  personal  salvation  of  his  hero,  did 
James  intend  to  convey  by  his  lighted  altar?  The  story, 
he  explains  in  his  preface,  grew  out  of  the  sense  of  per- 
sonality lost  in  the  dehumanizing  atmosphere  of  the 
great  mass.  "It  takes  space  to  feel,  it  takes  time  to  know; 
and  great  organisms  as  well  as  small  have  to  pause  .  .  . 
to  possess  themselves  and  to  be  aware.  Monstrous  masses 
are  by  this  truth  so  impervious  to  vibration  that  the 
sharpest  forces  of  feeling,  locally  applied,  no  more  pene- 
trate than  a  pin  or  a  paper  cutter  penetrates  an  elephant's 
hide.  Thus  the  very  tradition  of  sensibility  would  perish 
if  left  only  to  their  care.  It  has  here  and  there  to  be 
rescued,  to  be  saved  by  independent,  intelligent  zeal. 
.  .  .  The  sense  of  the  state  of  the  dead  is  but  part  of  the 
sense  of  the  state  of  the  living;  and  congruously  with 
that,  life  is  cheated  to  almost  the  same  degree  of  the 
finest  homage  .  .  .  that  we  fain  would  render  it.  We 
clutch  indeed  at  some  shadow  of  these  things  .  .  .  but 
our  struggle  yields  to  the  other  arrayed  things  that  defeat 
the  cultivation  in  such  an  air  of  the  finer  flowers — crea- 
tures of  cultivation  as  the  finer  flowers  essentially  are." 

xii 


Introduction 

He  describes  the  "bloom  of  myriad  many-colored  rela- 
tions" as  a  precious  plant  that  becomes  rare  indeed  in  the 
multiplied  contact  and  motion  of  the  crowded  life.  The 
Altar  of  the  Dead  commemorates  an  imagined  case  of  the 
"individual  independent  effort  to  keep  it  none  the  less 
tended  and  watered,  to  cultivate  it,  as  I  say,  with  an  ex- 
asperated piety."  Thus  "the  prime  idea  is  that  of  an 
invoked,  a  restorative  reaction  against  certain  general 
brutalities." 

James's  altar,  then,  symbolizes  the  conscious  effort  to 
preserve  the  flowers  of  a  special  sensibility — those  in- 
dividual values  that,  in  the  recurrent  nightmares  of  our 
more  unhappy  prophets,  are  threatened  by  the  advance 
of  the  proletariat.  James  realized  that  the  effort  to  pre- 
serve them  had  to  fly  in  the  face  of  conditions.  He  was 
thinking  of  London,  of  monstrous  aggregations  of  people, 
and  of  the  forgetfulness  and  callousness,  not  of  the  multi- 
tudes only,  who  are  indifferent  to  the  sight  of  a  funeral 
train  "bounding  merrily  by,"  but  of  the  cultivated  ladies 
and  gentlemen  with  whom  he  dined  and  who  were  not 
immune  to  the  general  infection.  What  would  he  have 
thought  of  conditions  such  as  some  of  our  stories  portray? 
Try  to  preserve  a  rare  flower  of  personality  in  the  white 
man's  town  in  Georgia  where  Candy-Man  Beechum  is 
snuffed  out  just  as  a  week-end  precaution;  or  in  Kentucky 
during  a  strike,  where  naive  liberals  are  caught  in  the 
No-man's  land  between  warring  classes;  or  on  the  Man- 
churian  or  Siberian  frontier  of  tense  watchfulness,  espion- 
age, and  violence;  or  in  the  bare  Hungarian  village  of 
Wine,  or  the  starved  Cuban  countryside  or  the  tax-ridden 
Italian  montain  hamlet;  or  in  the  midst  of  the  civil  war 
brutalities  of  Liam  O'Flaherty's  and  Frank  O'Connor's 
Ireland.  It  seems  an  impossible  task.  Yet  we  may  note 
for  consolation  how  precious  individual  values  live  on 
through  the  years  of  drab  discipline,  privation,  long- 
suffering  and  long-hoping  of  the  idealistic  socialists  de- 

xiii 


Introduction 

picted  in  May-Day  Celebration  and  A  Wreath  for  Toni. 
But  at  what  cost! 

And  now  for  the  reason  for  introducing  the  second 
group  of  stories  with  Chekhov's  Princess.  In  the  grounds 
of  such  a  monastery  near  Moscow  as  the  little  princess 
used  for  a  retreat  when  she  wished  spiritual  dew  to  fall 
upon  her  delicate  egotism,  there  is  a  cemetery  where 
Chekhov,  together  with  other  writers,  artists,  and  musi- 
cians more  recently  dead,  is  buried.  It  is  a  carefully 
tended  place  of  grass,  flowers,  and  trees.  There  are  no 
more  monks  and  no  more  princesses  in  retreat  in  the 
monastery  and  its  grounds,  but  there  is  a  day  nursery  for 
the  children  of  workers  in  nearby  factories;  and  they  were 
playing  or  sleeping  in  the  sun,  with  nurses  to  care  for  them, 
when  I  saw  the  place  last  summer.  A  little  girl  was  proud 
to  help  us  find  Chekhov's  grave.  Much  that  he  used  to 
dream  of  as  coming  to  pass  in  perhaps  two  hundred  years 
has  happened  since  he  was  buried  there  in  1904.  Among 
his  stories,  The  Princess,  free  of  the  more  obvious  miseries 
of  the  old  order,  yet  tells  as  well  as  any  of  them  why  people 
were  driven  to  act  and  suffer  for  a  new  order;  why  they 
had  to  destroy  the  intrenched  and  blinded  privilege  em- 
bodied in  the  not  unsympathetic  figure  of  the  little  prin- 
cess. The  story  is  a  concrete  illustration  of  a  condition 
summed  up  in  abstract  terms  by  Harold  Laski  (The  State 
in  Theory  and  Practise):  "It  can  never  be  said  too  often, 
especially  of  that  material  basis  which  is  decisive  in  deter- 
mining social  relations,  that  men  think  differently  who 
live  differently,  and  that  the  unity  which  gives  endur- 
ance and  stability  to  a  society  is  therefore  unattaina- 
ble where  they  live  so  differently  that  they  cannot  hope 
to  see  life  in  the  same  terms.  It  is  the  poison  of  in- 
equality which  has  wrought  the  ruin  of  all  great  empires 
in  the  past.  For  what  it  does  is  to  break  the  loyalty  of 
the  masses  to  the  common  life  and  thereby  to  per- 
suade them,  not  seldom  rightly,  that  its  destruction 

xiv 


Introduction 

alone  can  clear  the  path  to  more  just  conceptions  of  state- 
hood." 

The  Princess,  which  dramatizes  the  different  thinking 
of  those  who  live  differently  and  diagnoses  the  poison  of 
inequality  working  in  a  particular  empire  that  presently 
came  to  ruin,  serves  well  to  introduce  the  stories  which 
follow  it.  These  range  from  east  to  west  and  north  to 
south,  though  no  effort  has  been  made  to  include  all 
countries  or  all  phases  of  conflict.  (The  revolutionary 
emotions  of  Spain,  for  example,  seem  to  find  their  best 
literary  expression  in  poetry.)  The  stories  are  arranged 
in  a  progression,  roughly,  from  passive  suffering  to  active 
participation  in  struggles  for  a  new  order,  and  so  on  to 
problems  of  adjustment  arising  after  a  successful  revolu- 
tion— such  problems  finding  a  place  only  in  Soviet  stories, 
naturally  enough,  such  as  Black  Fritters  and  The  Cherry 
Stone.  This  last  story  has  a  not  wholly  achieved  atmos- 
phere of  fantasy  and  introspection.  It  is  open  to  adverse 
criticism  in  a  way  that  a  simple  action  story  like  The  Tiger 
is  not;  it  tries  to  do  a  harder  thing  and  does  not  quite 
succeed.  But  it  was  deliberately  chosen  because  it  sug- 
gests how,  after  mass  movements  and  overturns  pre- 
sumably fatal  to  all  those  rare  flowers  of  Henry  James's 
concern,  and  after  Plans  with  all  their  imposed  con- 
centration upon  mass  objectives,  individual  sensibility 
raises  its  head;  rather  feebly;  and  struggles  to  express 
itself  through  a  technique  of  reverie  and  image  that  is 
mastered  even  by  the  novices  in  the  ivory  towers.  But 
the  cherry  stone  is  planted  in  the  new  garden;  it  will  grow 
into  the  blossoming  tree  of  the  Invisible  country;  and  it 
will  be  found  to  be,  after  all,  a  part  of  the  Plan. 

"It  is  the  business  of  the  artist,"  writes  Stephen 
Spender  in  The  Destructive  Element,  "to  insist  on  human 
values.  If  there  is  need  for  a  revolution,  it  is  these  human 
values  that  will  make  the  revolution." 

In  that  richly  ornate  old  palace  of  the  Muscovite  tsars 

rv 


Introduction 

within  the  Kremlin  is  a  winding  tower  staircase  with  an 
intricately  designed  window  in  a  deep  stone  embrasure. 
Through  its  panes  of  crimson,  azure,  topaz,  and  amber 
glass  one  looks  out  upon  an  incredible  rainbow  vision  of 
domes  and  slender  spires,  twisted  cupolas,  and  golden 
crosses;  and  beyond  all  that  strange  beauty  of  the  past 
float  the  red  banners  over  the  Red  Square.  It  is  a  pic- 
torial juxtaposition  of  the  processes  of  history  that 
kindles  the  imagination.  Ivory  Tower  and  Red  Square: 
let  them  stand  for  the  human  values  which  the  stories  in 
this  collection  record  and  celebrate. 

DOROTHY  BREWSTER 
COLUMBIA  UNIVERSITY 
NEW  YORK  CITY 
November,  1936 


XVI 


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

WITH  each  story  formal  credit  for  reprinting  ap- 
pears in  the  copyright  line.  In  addition,  the 
editor  wishes  to  express  her  deep  appreciation 
to  the  following  authors,  agents,  editors,  and  publishers 
for  generous  and  courteous  cooperation  in  permitting  the 
use  of  copyrighted  material:  Dorothy  Thompson,  Mary 
Heaton  Vorse,  Langston  Hughes,  George  H.  Corey,  Leslie 
Dykstra,  Raymond  Weaver,  Jane  Culver,  Marjorie 
Fischer,  Lillian  Gilkes;  Whit  Burnett,  Alfred  Dashiell, 
the  editors  of  Harper's  Magazine;  Eric  S.  Pinker  and 
Adrienne  Morrison,  Incorporated,  Brandt  and  Brandt, 
Ann  Watkins,  Incorporated,  A.  D.  Peters,  Morton  Gold- 
man, Maxim  Lieber,  Harold  Ober,  Ayako  Ishigaki;  Alfred 
A.  Knopf,  Inc.,  Harper  and  Brothers,  International  Pub- 
lishers Company,  Inc.,  Harcourt,  Brace  and  Co.,  Inc., 
Houghton  Mifflin  Co.,  Random  House,  The  Hogarth 
Press,  The  Viking  Press,  Inc.,  Robert  McBride  and  Co., 
Macmillan  and  Co.,  Ltd.,  The  Vanguard  Press,  Columbia 
University  Press.  The  editor  is  especially  grateful  to 
Mr.  Lewis  H.  Titterton  for  permission  to  use  Nancy 
Evans's  story;  for  valuable  suggestions  in  the  selection 
of  stories,  to  Mr.  Terence  Holliday  and  Miss  Jennie  L. 
Thomson;  and  for  such  suggestions  and  assistance  in  many 
other  ways,  to  Professor  Angus  Burrell. 


XVll 


CONTENTS 

PAGE 

INTRODUCTION v 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS xvii 


PART  ONE 

THE  OLD  CHEVALIER       .      .      .  Isak  Dine  sen     ...  3 

REST  CURE Kay  Boyle  ....  35 

PENTHOUSE Raymond  Weaver   .      .  47 

B(JRYEAR'S  HORNPIPE      .      .      .  Leslie  Dykstra  ...  67 

SILENT  SNOW,  SECRET  SNOW      .  Conrad  Aiken   ...  93 

BUCHMENDEL  .    >  .-    .      .      .      .  Stefan  Zzueig     .      .      .  117 

THE  MARCHESA K.  Swinste ad-Smith     .  151 

THE  HAND  OF  GOD     ....  Jane  Culver      .      .      .  171 

I  SHALL  DECLINE  MY  HEAD      .  Nancy  Evans    .      .      .  187 

REJUVENATION  THROUGH  JOY  •'.  Langston  Hughes    .      .  205 
*tHE  POOR  RELATION  AND  THE 

SECRETARY Naomi  Mitchison   .      .  229 

MARIA  CONCEPCION   ....  Katherine  Anne  Porter  249 

TJIE  APOSTATE Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes  275 

THE  ALTAR  OF  THE  DEAD     .      .  Henry  James    .      .      .  303 

PART  TWO 

THE  PRINCESS Anton  Chekhov       .      .  347 

WINE    .      .     • Sandor  Gergel   .     .     .  365 

THE  PROTECTOR Marcelo  Salinas     .     .373 

AWAKENING Isaac  Babel       .     .     .379 

CANDY-MAN  BEECHUM    .      .     .  Erskine  Caldwell    .     .  391 

xiz 


Contents 

PAGE 

MRS.  KENT Robert  Smith     .      .      .  399 

PROFESSOR Langston  Hughes    .      .  413 

$595  F.  O.  B.  .  ;  (f.      ....     George  H.  Corey      .      .  423 

RENDEZVOUS    .   '  ;.      .      .      .      .     Mary  Heaton  Vorse     .  455 

RED  OVER  EUROPE     ....     George  Weller    .      .      .  473 

SIMPLICIO   .    ^  £ Ignazio  Silone  .      .      .  493 

THE  MOUNTAIN  TAVERN       .      .     Liam  0' Flaherty     .      .  535 

NIGHTPIECE  WITH  FIGURES  .      .     Frank  O'Connor     .      .  547 

MAY-DAY  CELEBRATION       .      .      T.  0.  Beachcroft     .      ,  559 

A  WREATH  FOR  TONI       .      .      .     Dorothy  Thompson       .  575 

COCOONS* Fusao  Hayashi       .      .  599 

OUTPOST     .  '  '. Denji  Kuroshima  .      .  6ii' 

THE  MARTYR'S  WIDOW   .      .      .     Agnes  Smedley       .      .  625 

THE  TIGER F.  Borokhvastov      .      .  645 

BLACK  FRITTERS Panteleimon  Romanov.  657 

THE  CHERRY  STONE  ....      Yuri  Olesha      .      .      .  671 

THE  SUN  AND  THE  MOON      .      .     Marjorie  Fischer    .      .  685 

APPENDIX 

ON  WRITING  THE  SHORT  STORY     Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes  699 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL  NOTE 754 


THE  OLD   CHEVALIER 

by 

Isak  Dinesen 


ISAK  DINESEN  is  the  pen  name  of  Baroness  Blixen  of 
Rungstedlund,  Denmark.  Baroness  Blixen  is  carrying  on  a 
family  tradition  with  her  writing,  for  her  father  before  her 
made  a  considerable  contribution  to  Danish  literature.  Much 
of  her  life  she  has  spent  on  a  coffee  plantation  in  British  East 
Africa^  now  the  Kenya  Colony ,  where  she  went  with  her  hus- 
band in  1914,  the  year  of  their  marriage.  After  their  divorce 
in  1921,  she  remained  on  the  plantation  for  a  little  more  than 
ten  years — until  the  coffee  market  declined.  Then  she  returned 
to  her  home  in  Denmark.  It  is  her  expressed  hope  to  go  back 
to  East  Africa. 


THE  OLD   CHEVALIER 

MY  father  had  a  friend,  old  Baron  von  Brackel,  who 
had  in  his  day  traveled  much  and  known  many 
cities  and  men.  Otherwise  he  was  not  at  all  like 
Odysseus,  and  could  least  of  all  be  called  ingenious,  for  he 
had  shown  very  little  skill  in  managing  his  own  affairs. 
Probably  from  a  sense  of  failure  in  this  respect  he  carefully 
kept  from  discussing  practical  matters  with  an  efficient 
younger  generation,  keen  on  their  careers  and  success  in 
life.  But  on  theology,  the  opera,  moral  right  and  wrong, 
and  other  unprofitable  pursuits  he  was  a  pleasant  talker. 

He  had  been  a  singularly  good-looking  young  man,  a 
sort  of  ideally  handsome  youth,  and  although  no  trace  of 
this  past  beauty  could  be  found  in  his  face,  the  history  of 
it  could  be  traced  in  a  certain  light-hearted  dignity  and 
self-reliance  which  are  the  product  of  a  career  of  good 
looks,  and  which  will  be  found,  unaccountably,  in  the  car- 
riage of  those  shaking  ruins  who  used  to  look  into  the 
mirrors  of  the  last  century  with  delight.  In  this  way  one 
should  be  able  to  point  out,  at  a  danse  macabre,  the  skele- 
tons of  the  really  great  beauties  of  their  time. 

One  night  he  and  I  came  to  discuss  an  old  theme,  which 
has  done  its  duty  in  the  literature  of  the  past:  namely, 
whether  one  is  ever  likely  to  get  any  real  benefit,  any 
lasting  moral  satisfaction,  out  of  forsaking  an  inclination 
for  the  sake  of  principle,  and  in  the  course  of  our  talk  he 
told  me  the  following  story: 

On  a  rainy  night  in  the  winter  of  1874,  on  an  avenue  in 
Paris,  a  drunken  young  girl  came  up  and  spoke  to  me.  I 

From  Seven  Gothic  Tales,  by  Isak  Dinesen,  copyright  1934.  Reprinted  by 
permission  of  Random  House,  Inc.,  New  York. 

3 


The  Old  Chevalier 

was  then,  as  you  will  understand,  quite  a  young  man.  I 
was  very  upset  and  unhappy,  and  was  sitting  bareheaded 
in  the  rain  on  a  seat  along  the  avenue  because  I  had  just 
parted  from  a  lady  whom,  as  we  said  then,  I  did  adore, 
and  who  had  within  this  last  hour  tried  to  poison  me. 

This,  though  it  has  nothing  to  do  with  what  I  was  going 
to  tell  you,  was  in  itself  a  curious  story.  I  had  not  thought 
of -it  for  many  years  until,  when  I  was  last  in  Paris,  I  saw 
the  lady  in  her  box  at  the  opera,  now  a  very  old  woman, 
with  two  charming  little  girls  in  pink  who  were,  I  was  told, 
her  great-granddaughters.  She  was  lovely  no  more,  but  I 
had  never,  in  the  time  that  I  had  known  her,  seen  her  look 
so  contented.  I  was  sorry  afterward  that  I  had  not  gone 
up  and  called  on  her  in  her  box,  for  though  there  had  been 
but  little  happiness  for  either  of  us  in  that  old  love  affair 
of  ours,  I  think  that  she  would  have  been  as  pleased  to  be 
reminded  of  the  beautiful  young  woman,  who  made  men 
unhappy,  as  I  had  been  to  remember,  vaguely  as  it  was, 
the  young  man  who  had  been  so  unhappy  that  long  time 
ago. 

Her  great  beauty,  unless  some  rare  artist  has  been  able 
to  preserve  it  in  color  or  clay,  now  probably  exists  only 
within  a  few  very  old  brains  like  mine.  It  was  in  its  day 
something  very  wonderful.  She  was  a  blonde,  the  fairest, 
I  think,  that  I  have  ever  seen,  but  not  one  of  your  pink- 
and-white  beauties.  She  was  pale,  colorless,  all  through, 
like  an  old  pastel  or  the  image  of  a  woman  in  a  dim  mirror. 
Within  that  cool  and  frail  form  there  was  an  unrivaled 
energy,  and  a  distinction  such  as  women  have  no  more, 
or  no  more  care  to  have. 

I  had  met  her  and  had  fallen  in  love  with  her  in  the 
autumn,  at  the  chateau  of  a  friend  where  we  were  both 
staying  together  with  a  large  party  of  other  gay  young 
people  who  are  now,  if  they  are  alive,  faded  and  crooked 
and  deaf.  We  were  there  to  hunt,  and  I  think  that  I  shall 
be  able  to  remember  to  the  last  of  my  days  how  she  used 


Isak  Dinesen 

to  look  on  a  big  bay  horse  that  she  had,  and  that  autumn 
air,  just  touched  with  frost,  when  we  came  home  in  the 
evenings,  warm  in  cold  clothes,  tired,  riding  side  by  side 
over  an  old  stone  bridge.  My  love  was  both  humble  and 
audacious,  like  that  of  a  page  for  his  lady,  for  she  was  so 
much  admired,  and  her  beauty  had  in  itself  a  sort  of  dis- 
dain which  might  well  give  sad  dreams  to  a  boy  of  twenty, 
poor  and  a  stranger  in  her  set.  So  that  every  hour  of  our 
rides,  dances  and  tableaux  vivants  was  exuberant  with 
ecstasy  and  pain,  the  sort  of  thing  you  will  know  yourself: 
a  whole  orchestra  in  the  heart.  When  she  made  me 
happy,  as  one  says,  I  thought  that  I  was  happy  indeed.  I 
remembered  smoking  a  cigar  on  the  terrace  one  morning, 
looking  out  over  the  large  view  of  low,  wood-covered  blue 
hills,  and  giving  the  Lord  a  sort  of  receipt  for  all  the  happi- 
ness that  I  should  ever  have  any  claim  to  in  my  life. 
Whatever  would  happen  to  me  now,  I  had  had  my  due, 
and  declared  myself  satisfied; 

Love,  with  very  young  people,  is  a  heartless  business. 
We  drink  at  that  age  from  thirst,  or  to  get  drunk;  it  is 
only  later  in  life  that  we  occupy  ourselves  with  the  indi- 
viduality of  our  wine.  A  young  man  in  love  is  essentially 
enraptured  by  the  forces  within  himself.  You  may  come 
back  to  that  view  again,  in  a  second  adolescence.  I  knew  a 
very  old  Russian  in  Paris,  enormously  rich,  who  used  to 
keep  the  most  charming  young  dancers,  and  who,  when 
once  asked  whether  he  had,  or  needed  to  have,  any  illu- 
sions as  to  their  feelings  for  him,  thought  the  question 
over  and  said:  "I  do  not  think,  if  my  chef  succeeds  in 
making  me  a  good  omelette,  that  I  bother  much  whether  he 
loves  me  or  not."  A  young  man  could  not  have  put  his 
answer  into  those  words,  but  he  might  say  that  he  did  not 
care  whether  his  wine  merchant  was  of  his  own  religion  or 
not,  and  imagine  that  he  had  got  close  to  the  truth  of 
things.  In  middle  age,  though,  you  arrive  at  a  deeper 
humility,  and  you  come  to  consider  it  of  importance  that 

5 


The  Old  Chevalier 

the  person  who  sells  or  grows  your  wine  shall  be  of  the 
same  religion  as  you  yourself.  In  this  case  of  my  own,  of 
which  I  am  telling  you,  my  youthful  vanity,  if  I  had  too 
much  of  it,  was  to  be  taught  a  lesson  very  soon.  For  dur- 
ing the  months  of  that  winter,  while  we  were  both  living 
in  Paris,  where  her  house  was  the  meeting  place  of  many 
bel-esprits,  and  she  herself  the  admired  dilettante  in 
music  and  arts,  I  began  to  think  that  she  was  making  use 
of  me,  or  of  her  own  love  for  me,  if  such  can  be  said,  to 
make  her  husband  jealous.  This  has  happened,  I  suppose, 
to  many  young  men  down  through  the  ages,  without  the 
total  sum  of  their  experience  being  much  use  to  the  young 
man  who  finds  himself  in  the  same  position  today.  I  be- 
gan to  wonder  what  the  relations  between  those  two  were 
really  like,  and  what  strange  forces  there  might  be  in  her 
or  in  him,  to  toss  me  about  between  them  in  this  way,  and 
I  think  that  I  began  to  be  afraid.  She  was  jealous  of  me, 
too,  and  would  scold  me  with  a  sort  of  moral  indignation, 
as  if  I  had  been  a  groom  failing  in  his  duties.  I  thought 
that  I  could  not  live  without  her,  and  also  that  she  did 
not  want  to  live  without  me,  but  exactly  what  she  wanted 
me  for  I  did  not  know.  Her  contact  hurt  me  as  one  is 
hurt  by  touching  iron  on  a  winter  day:  you  do  not  know 
whether  the  pain  comes  from  heat  or  from  cold. 

Before  I  had  ever  met  her  I  had  read  about  her  family, 
whose  name  ran  down  for  centuries  through  the  history  of 
France,  and  learned  that  there  used  to  be  werewolves 
amongst  them,  and  I  sometimes  thought  that  I  should 
have  been  happier  to  see  her  really  go  down  on  all  fours 
and  snarl  at  me,  for  then  I  should  have  known  where  I 
was.  And  even  up  to  the  end  we  had  hours  together  of  a 
particular  charm,  for  which  I  shall  always  be  thankful  to 
hen  During  my  first  year  in  Paris,  before  I  knew  any 
people  there,  I  had  taken  up  studying  the  history  of  the 
old  hotels  of  the  town,  and  this  hobby  of  mine  appealed 
to  her,  so  that  we  used  to  dive  into  old  quarters  and  ages 

6 


Isak  Dinesen 

of  Paris,  and  dwell  together  in  the  age  of  Abelard  or  of 
Moliere,  and  while  we  were  playing  in  this  way  she  was 
serious  and  gentle  with  me,  like  a  little  girl.  But  at  other 
times  I  thought  that  I  could  stand  it  no  longer,  and  would 
try  to  get  away  from  her,  and  any  suspicion  of  this  was 
enough,  I  imagine,  to  make  her  lie  awake  at  night  thinking 
out  new  methods  of  punishing  me.  It  was  between  us  the 
old  game  of  the  cat  and  the  mouse — probably  the  original 
model  of  all  the  games  of  the  world.  But  because  the  cat 
has  more  passion  in  it,  and  the  mouse  only  the  plain  in- 
terest of  existence,  the  mouse  is  bound  to  become  tired 
first.  Toward  the  end  I  thought  that  she  wished  us  to  be 
found  out,  she  was  so  careless  in  this  liaison  of  ours;  and 
in  those  days  a  love  affair  had  to  be  managed  with  pru- 
dence. 

I  remember  during  this  period  coming  to  her  hotel  on 
the  night  of  a  ball  to  which  she  was  going,  while  I  had  not 
been  asked,  disguised  as  a  hairdresser.  In  the  'seventies 
ladies  had  large  chignons  and  the  work  of  a  coiffeur  took 
time.  And  through  everything  the  thought  of  her  husband 
would  follow  me,  like,  I  thought,  the  gigantic  shadow, 
upon  the  white  back-curtain,  of  an  absurd  little  punchi- 
nello.  I  began  to  feel  so  tired — not  exactly  of  her,  but  really 
exhausted  in  myself — that  I  was  making  up  my  mind  to 
have  a  scene  and  an  explanation  from  her,  even  if  I  should 
lose  her  by  it,  when  suddenly,  on  the  night  of  which  I  am 
telling  you,  she  herself  produced  both  the  scene  and  the 
explanation,  such  a  hurricane  as  I  have  never  again  been 
out  in;  and  all  with  exactly  the  same  weapons  as  I  had 
myself  had  ready:  with  the  accusation  that  I  thought 
more  of  her  husband  than  I  did  of  her.  And  when  she  said 
this  to  me,  in  that  pale  blue  boudoir  of  hers  that  I  knew 
so  well — the  silk-lined,  upholstered  and  scented  box,  such 
as  the  ladies  of  that  time  liked  to  keep  themselves  in,  with, 
I  remember,  some  paintings  of  flowers  on  the  walls,  and 
very  soft  silk  cushions  everywhere,  and  a  lot  of  lilacs  in 

7 


The  Old  Chevalier 

the  corner  behind  me,  with  the  lamp  subdued  by  a  large 
red  shade — I  had  no  reply,  for  I  knew  that  she  was  right. 

You  would  know  his  name  if  I  told  you,  for  he  is  still 
talked  about,  though  he  has  been  dead  for  many  years. 
Or  you  would  find  it  in  any  of  the  memoirs  of  that  period, 
for  he  was  the  idol  of  our  generation.  Later  on,  great  un- 
happiness  came  upon  him,  but  at  that  moment — I  believe 
that  he  was  then  thirty-three  years  old — he  was  walking 
quietly  in  the  full  splendor  of  his  strange  power.  I  once, 
about  that  time,  heard  two  old  men  talk  about  his  mother, 
who  had  been  one  of  the  beauties  of  the  Restoration,  and 
one  of  them  said  of  her  that  she  carried  all  her  famous 
jewels  as  lightly  and  gracefully  as  other  young  ladies  would 
wear  garlands  of  field  flowers.  "Yes,"  the  other  said  after 
he  had  thought  it  over  for  a  moment,  "and  she  scattered 
them  about  her,  in  the  end,  like  flowers,  a  la  Ophelia." 
Therefore  I  think  that  this  rare  lightness  of  his  must  have 
been,  together  with  the  weakness,  a  family  trait.  Even  in 
his  wildest  whims,  and  in  a  sort  of  mannerism  which  we 
then  named  fin  de  siecle  and  were  rather  proud  of,  he  had 
something  of  le  grand  siecle  about  him:  a  straight  nobility 
that  belonged  to  the  old  France. 

I  have  looked  since  at  those  great  buildings  of  the 
seventeenth  century  which  seem  altogether  inexpedient 
as  dwellings  for  human  beings,  and  have  thought  that 
they  must  have  been  built  for  him — and  his  mother,  I 
suppose — to  live  in.  He  had  a  confidence  in  life,  independ- 
ent of  the  successes  which  we  envied  him,  as  if  he  knew 
that  he  could  draw  upon  greater  forces,  unknown  to  us, 
if  he  wanted  to.  It  gave  me  much  to  think  about,  on  the 
fate  of  man,  when  many  years  later  I  was  told  how  this 
young  man  had,  toward  the  end  of  his  tragic  destiny, 
answered  the  friends  who  implored  him  in  the  name  of 
God,  in  the  words  of  Sophocles's  Ajax:  "You  worry  me 
too  much,  woman.  Do  you  not  know  that  I  am  no  longer 
a  debtor  of  the  gods?" 

8 


Isak  DInesen 

I  see  that  I  ought  not  to  have  started  talking  about  him, 
even  after  all  these  years;  but  an  ideal  of  one's  youth  will 
always  be  a  landmark  amongst  happenings  and  feelings 
long  gone.  He  himself  has  nothing  to  do  with  this  story. 

I  told  you  that  I  myself  felt  it  to  be  true  that  my  feel- 
ings for  the  lovely  young  woman,  whom  I  adored,  were 
really  light  of  weight  compared  to  my  feelings  for  the 
young  man.  If  he  had  been  with  her  when  we  first  met,  or 
if  I  had  known  him  before  I  met  her,  I  do  not  think  that  I 
should  ever  have  dreamed  of  falling  in  love  with  his  wife. 

But  his  wife's  love  for  him,  and  her  jealousy,  were  in- 
deed of  a  strange  nature.  For  that  she  was  in  love  with 
him  I  knew  from  the  moment  that  she  began  to  speak  of 
him.  Probably  I  had  known  it  a  long  time  before.  And 
she  was  jealous.  She  suffered,  she  cried — she  was,  as  I 
have  told  you,  ready  to  kill  if  nothing  else  would  help  her 
— and  all  the  time  that  fight,  which  was  very  likely  the 
only  reality  in  her  life,  was  not  a  struggle  for  possession, 
but  a  competition.  She  was  jealous  of  him  as  if  he  had  been 
another  young  woman  of  fashion,  her  rival,  or  as  if  she 
herself  had  been  a  young  man  who  envied  him  his  tri- 
umphs. I  think  that  she  was,  in  herself,  always  alone  with 
him  in  a  world  that  she  despised.  When  she  rode  so 
madly,  when  she  surrounded  herself  with  admirers,  she 
had  her  eye  on  him,  as  a  competitor  in  a  chariot  race 
would  have  his  eyes  only  on  the  driver  just  beside  him.  As 
for  the  rest  of  us,  we  only  existed  for  her  in  so  far  as  we 
were  to  belong  to  her  or  to  him,  and  she  took  her  lovers 
as  she  took  her  fences,  to  pile  up  more  conquests  than  the 
man  with  whom  she  was  in  love. 

I  cannot,  of  course,  know  how  this  had  begun  between 
them.  Afterward  I  tried  to  believe  that  it  must  have  arisen 
from  a  desire  for  revenge,  on  her  side,  for  something  that 
he  had  done  to  her  in  the  past.  But  I  had  the  feeling  that 
it  was  this  barren  passion  which  had  burned  all  the  color 
out  of  her. 


The  Old  Chevalier 

Now  you  will  know  that  all  this  happened  in  the  early 
days  of  what  we  called  then  the  "  emancipation  of  woman." 
Many  strange  things  took  place  then.  I  do  not  think  that 
at  the  time  the  movement  went  very  deep  down  in  the 
social  world,  but  here  were  the  young  women  of  the  highest 
intelligence,  and  the  most  daring  and  ingenious  of  them, 
coming  out  of  the  chiaroscuro  of  a  thousand  years,  blink- 
ing at  the  sun  and  wild  with  desire  to  try  their  wings.  I 
believe  that  some  of  them  put  on  the  armor  and  the  halo 
of  St.  Joan  of  Arc,  who  was  herself  an  emancipated  virgin, 
and  became  like  white-hot  angels.  But  most  women,  when 
they  feel  free  to  experiment  with  life,  will  go  straight  to 
the  witches'  Sabbath.  I  myself  respect  them  for  it,  and  do 
not  think  that  I  could  ever  really  love  a  woman  who  had 
not,  at  some  time  or  other,  been  up  on  a  broomstick. 

I  have  always  thought  it  unfair  to  woman  that  she  has 
never  been  alone  in  the  world.  Adam  had  a  time,  whether 
long  or  short,  when  he  could  wander  about  on  a  fresh  and 
peaceful  earth,  among  the  beasts,  in  full  possession  of  his 
soul,  and  most  men  are  born  with  a  memory  of  that  period. 
But  poor  Eve  found  him  there,  with  all  his  claims  upon 
her,  the  moment  she  looked  into  the  world.  That  is  a 
grudge  that  woman  has  always  had  against  the  Creator: 
she  feels  that  she  is  entitled  to  have  that  epoch  of  paradise 
back  for  herself.  Only,  worse  luck,  when  chasing  a  time 
that  has  gone,  one  is  bound  to  get  hold  of  it  by  the  tail, 
the  wrong  way  around.  Thus  these  young  witches  got 
everything  they  wanted  as  in  a  catoptric  image. 

Old  ladies  of  those  days,  patronesses  of  the  church  and 
of  home,  said  that  emancipation  was  turning  the  heads  of 
the  young  women.  Probably  there  were  more  young  ladies 
than  my  mistress  galloping  high  up  above  the  ground, 
with  their  fair  faces  at  the  backs  of  their  necks,  after  the 
manner  of  the  wild  huntsman  in  the  tale.  And  in  the  air 
there  was  a  theory,  which  caught  hold  of  them  there,  that 
the  jealousy  of  lovers  was  an  ignoble  affair,  and  that  no 

10 


Isak  Dinesen 

woman  should  allow  herself  to  be  possessed  by  any  male 
but  the  devil.  On  their  way  to  him  they  were  proud  of 
being,  according  to  Doctor  Faust,  always  a  hundred  steps 
ahead  of  man.  But  the  jealousy  of  competition  was,  as 
between  Adam  and  Lilith,  a  noble  striving.  So  there  you 
would  find,  not  only  the  old  witches  of  Macbeth,  of  whom 
one  might  have  expected  it,  but  even  young  ladies  with 
faces  smooth  as  flowers,  wild  and  mad  with  jealousy  of 
their  lovers'  mustachios.  All  this  they  got  from  reading — 
in  the  orthodox  witches'  manner — the  book  of  Genesis 
backwards.  Left  to  themselves,  they  might  have  got  a 
lot  out  of  it.  It  was  the  poor,  tame,  male  preachers  of 
emancipation,  cutting,  as  warlocks  always  will,  a  miserable 
figure  at  the  Sabbath,  who  spoiled  the  style  and  flight  of 
the  whole  thing  by  bringing  it  down  to  earth  and  under 
laws  of  earthly  reason.  I  believe,  though,  that  things  have 
changed  by  now,  and  that  at  the  present  day,  when  males 
have  likewise  emancipated  themselves,  you  may  find  the 
young  lover  on  the  hearth,  following  the  track  of  the 
witch's  shadow  along  the  ground,  and,  with  infinitely  less 
imagination,  blending  the  deadly  brew  for  his  mistress, 
out  of  envy  of  her  breasts. 

The  part  which  had  been  granted  to  me,  in  the  story  of 
my  emancipated  young  witch,  was  not  in  itself  flattering. 
Still  I  believe  that  she  was  desperately  fond  of  me,  prob- 
ably with  the  kind  of  passion  which  a  little  girl  has  for  her 
favorite  doll.  And  as  far  as  that  goes  I  was  really  the  cen- 
tral figure  of  our  drama.  If  she  would  be  Othello,  it  was  I, 
and  not  her  husband,  who  must  take  the  part  of  Des- 
demona,  and  I  can  well  imagine  her  sighing,  "Oh,  the 
pity  of  it,  the  pity  of  it,  lago,"  over  this  unfortunate  busi- 
ness, even  wanting  to  give  me  a  kiss  and  yet  another  be- 
fore finishing  it  altogether.  Only  she  did  not  want  to  kill 
me  out  of  a  feeling  of  justice  or  revenge.  She  wished  to 
destroy  me  so  that  she  should  not  have  to  lose  me  and  to 
see  a  very  dear  possession  belong  to  her  rival,  in  the  man- 

ii 


The  Old  Chevalier 

ner  of  a  determined  general,  who  will  blow  up  a  fortress 
which  he  can  no  longer  hold,  rather  than  see  it  in  the  hands 
of  the  enemy. 

It  was  toward  the  end  of  our  interview  that  she  tried 
to  poison  me.  I  believe  that  this  was  really  against  her 
program,  and  that  she  had  meant  to  tell  me  what  she 
thought  of  me  when  I  already  had  the  poison  in  me,  but 
had  been  unable  to  control  herself  for  so  long.  There 
was,  as  you  will  understand,  something  unnatural  in 
drinking  coffee  at  that  stage  of  our  dialogue.  The  way  in 
which  she  insisted  upon  it,  and  her  sudden  deadly  silence 
as  I  raised  the  cup  to  my  mouth,  gave  her  away.  I  can 
still,  although  I  only  just  touched  it,  recall  the  mortal, 
insipid  taste  of  the  opium,  and  had  I  emptied  the  cup,  it 
could  not  have  made  my  stomach  rise  and  the  marrow  in 
my  bones  turn  to  water  more  than  did  the  abrupt  and 
fatal  conviction  that  she  wanted  me  to  die.  I  let  the  cup 
drop,  faint  as  a  drowning  man,  and  stood  and  stared  at  her, 
and  she  made  one  wild  movement,  as  if  she  meant  to 
throw  herself  at  me  still.  Then  we  stood  quite  immovable 
for  a  minute,  both  knowing  that  all  was  lost.  And  after  a 
little  while  she  began  to  rock  and  whimper,  with  her  hands 
at  her  mouth,  suddenly  changed  into  a  very  old  woman. 
For  my  own  part,  I  was  not  able  to  utter  a  sound,  and  I 
think  that  I  just  ran  from  the  house  as  soon  as  I  had 
strength  enough  to  move.  The  air,  the  rain,  and  the  street 
itself  met  me  like  old  forgotten  friends,  faithful  still  in  the 
hour  of  need. 

And  there  I  sat  on  a  seat  of  the  Avenue  Montaigne, 
with  the  entire  building  of  my  pride  and  happiness  lying 
around  me  in  ruins,  sick  to  death  with  horror  and  humili- 
ation, when  this  girl,  of  whom  I  was  telling  you,  came  up 
to  me. 

I  think  that  I  must  have  been  sitting  there  for  some 
time,  and  that  she  must  have  stood  and  watched  me  be- 
fore she  could  summon  up  her  courage  to  approach.  She 

12 


Isak  Dinesen 

probably  felt  herself  in  sympathy  with  me,  thinking  that 
I  was  drunk  too,  as  sensible  people  do  not  sit  without  a 
hat  in  the  rain,  perhaps  also  because  I  was  so  near  her 
own  age.  I  did  not  hear  what  she  said,  neither  the  first  nor 
the  second  time.  I  was  not  in  a  mood  to  enter  into  talk 
with  a  little  girl  of  the  streets.  I  think  that  it  must  have 
been  from  sheer  instinct  of  self-preservation  that  I  did  in 
the  end  come  to  look  at  her  and  to  listen.  I  had  to  get 
away  from  my  own  thoughts,  and  any  human  being  was 
welcome  to  assist  me.  But  there  was  at  the  same  time 
something  extraordinarily  graceful  and  expressive  about 
the  girl,  which  may  have  attracted  my  attention.  She 
stood  there  in  the  rain,  highly  rouged,  with  radiant  eyes 
like  stars,  very  erect  though  only  just  steady  on  her  legs. 
When  I  kept  on  staring  at  her,  she  laughed  at  me,  a  low, 
clear  laughter.  She  was  very  young.  She  was  holding  up 
her  dress  with  one  hand — in  those  days  ladies  wore  long 
trains  in  the  streets.  On  her  head  she  had  a  black  hat  with 
ostrich  feathers  drooping  sadly  in  the  rain  and  overshad- 
owing her  forehead  and  eyes.  The  firm  gentle  curve  of 
her  chin,  and  her  round  young  neck  shone  in  the  light  of 
the  gas  lamp.  Thus  I  can  see  her  still,  though  I  have  an- 
other picture  of  her  as  well. 

What  impressed  me  about  her  was  that  she  seemed 
altogether  so  strangely  moved,  intoxicated  by  the  situa- 
tion. Hers  was  not  the  conventional  advance.  She  looked 
like  a  person  out  on  a  great  adventure,  or  someone  keeping 
a  secret.  I  think  that  on  looking  at  her  I  began  to  smile, 
some  sort  of  bitter  and  wild  smile,  known  only  to  young 
people,  and  that  this  encouraged  her.  She  came  nearer. 
I  fumbled  in  my  pocket  for  some  money  to  give  her,  but 
I  had  no  money  on  me.  I  got  up  and  started  to  walk,  and 
she  came  on,  walking  beside  me.  There  was,  I  remember, 
a  certain  comfort  in  having  her  near  me,  for  I  did  not  want 
to  be  alone.  In  this  way  it  happened  that  I  let  her  come 
with  me. 

13 


The  Old  Chevalier 

I  asked  her  what  her  name  was.  She  told  me  that  it 
was  Nathalie. 

At  this  time  I  had  a  job  at  the  Legation,  and  I  was  liv- 
ing in  an  apartment  on  the  Place  Francois  I,  so  we  had 
not  far  to  go.  I  was  prepared  to  come  back  late,  and  in 
those  days,  when  I  would  come  home  at  all  sorts  of  hours, 
I  used  to  keep  a  fire  and  a  cold  supper  waiting  for  me. 
When  we  came  into  the  room  it  was  lighted  and  warm, 
and  the  table  was  laid  for  me  in  front  of  the  fire.  There 
was  a  bottle  of  champagne  on  ice.  I  used  to  keep  a  bottle 
of  champagne  to  drink  when  I  returned  from  my  shep- 
herd's hours. 

The  young  girl  looked  around  the  room  with  a  con- 
tented face.  Here  in  the  light  of  my  lamp  I  could  see  how 
she  really  looked.  She  had  soft  brown  curls  and  blue 
eyes.  Her  face  was  round,  with  a  broad  forehead.  She 
was  wonderfully  pretty  and  graceful.  I  think  that  I  just 
wondered  at  her,  as  one  would  wonder  at  finding  a  fresh 
bunch  of  roses  in  a  gutter,  no  more.  If  I  had  been  normally 
balanced  I  suppose  I  should  have  tried  to  get  from  her 
some  explanation  of  the  sort  of  mystery  that  she  seemed  to 
be,  but  now  I  do  not  think  that  this  occurred  to  me  at  all. 

The  truth  was  that  we  must  both  have  been  in  quite  a 
peculiar  sort  of  mood,  such  as  will  hardly  ever  have  re- 
peated itself  for  either  of  us.  I  knew  as  little  of  what  moved 
her  as  she  could  have  known  about  my  state  of  mind,  but, 
highly  excited  and  strained,  we  met  in  a  special  sort  of 
sympathy.  I,  partly  stunned  and  partly  abnormally  wide 
awake  and  sensitive,  took  her  quite  selfishly,  without  any 
thought  of  where  she  came  from  or  where  she  would  disap- 
pear to  again,  as  if  she  were  a  gift  to  me,  and  her  presence 
a  kind  and  friendly  act  of  fate  at  this  moment  when  I 
could  not  be  alone.  She  seemed  to  me  to  have  come  as  a 
little  wild  spirit  from  the  great  town  outside — Paris — - 
which  may  at  any  moment  bestow  unexpected  favors  on 
one,  and  which  had  in  the  right  moment  sent  her  to  me. 


Isak  Dinesen 

What  she  thought  of  me  or  what  she  felt  about  me,  of 
that  I  can  say  nothing.  At  the  moment  I  did  not  think 
about  it,  but  on  looking  back  now  I  Should  say  that  I 
must  also  have  symbolized  something  to  her,  and  that  I 
hardly  existed  for  her  as  an  individual. 

I  felt  it  as  a  great  happiness,  a  warmth  all  through  me, 
that  she  was  so  young  and  lovely.  It  made  me  laugh  again 
after  those  weird  and  dismal  hours.  I  pulled  off  her  hat, 
lifted  her  face  up,  and  kissed  her.  Then  I  felt  how  wet  she 
was.  She  must  have  walked  for  a  long  time  on  the  streets 
in  the  rain,  for  her  clothes  were  like  the  feathers  of  a  wet 
hen.  I  went  over  and  opened  the  bottle  on  the  table, 
poured  her  out  a  glass,  and  handed  it  to  her.  She  took  it, 
standing  in  front  of  the  fire,  her  tumbled  wet  curls  falling 
down  over  her  forehead.  With  her  red  cheeks  and  shining 
eyes  she  looked  like  a  child  that  has  just  awakened  from 
sleep,  or  like  a  doll.  She  drank  half  the  glass  of  wine  quite 
slowly,  with  her  eyes  on  my  face,  and,  as  if  this  half-glass  of 
champagne  had  brought  her  to  a  point  where  she  could  no 
longer  be  silent,  she  started  to  sing,  in  a  low,  gentle  voice, 
hardly  moving  her  lips,  the  first  lines  of  a  song,  a  waltz, 
which  was  then  sung  in  all  the  music  halls.  She  broke  it 
off,  emptied  her  glass,  and  handed  it  back  to  me.  A  votre 
sante,  she  said. 

Her  voice  was  so  merry,  so  pure,  like  the  song  of  a  bird 
in  a  bush,  and  of  all  things  music  at  that  time  went  most 
directly  to  my  heart.  Her  song  increased  the  feeling  I 
had,  that  something  special  and  more  than  natural  had 
been  sent  to  me.  I  filled  her  glass  again,  put  my  hand  on 
her  round  white  neck,  and  brushed  the  damp  ringlets 
back  from  her  face.  "How  on  earth  have  you  come  to  be 
so  wet,  Nathalie?"  I  said,  as  if  I  had  been  her  grand- 
mother. "  You  must  take  off  your  clothes  and  get  warm." 
As  I  spoke  my  voice  changed.  I  began  to  laugh  again. 
She  fixed  her  starlike  eyes  on  me.  Her  face  quivered  for  a 
moment.  Then  she  started  to  unbutton  her  cloak,  and  let 


The  Old  Chevalier 

it  fall  onto  the  floor.  Underneath  this  cloak  of  black  lace, 
badly  suited  for  the  season  and  faded  at  the  edges  into  a 
rusty  brown,  shtf  had  a  black  silk  frock,  tightly  fitted 
over  the  bust,  waist  and  hips,  and  pleated  and  draped 
below,  with  flounces  and  ruffles  such  as  ladies  wore  at 
that  time,  in  the  early  days  of  the  bustle.  Its  folds  shone 
in  the  light  of  my  fire.  I  began  to  undress  her,  as  I  might 
have  undressed  a  doll,  very  slowly  and  clumsily,  and  she 
stood  up  straight  and  let  me  do  it.  Her  fresh  face  had  a 
grave  and  childlike  expression.  Once  or  twice  she  colored 
under  my  hands,  but  as  I  undid  her  tight  bodice  and  my 
hands  touched  her  cool  shoulders  and  bosom,  her  face 
broke  into  a  gentle  and  wide  smile,  and  she  lifted  up  her 
hand  and  touched  my  fingers. 

The  old  Baron  von  Brackel  made  a  long  pause.  "I  think 
that  I  must  explain  to  you,"  he  said,  "so  that  you  may  be 
able  to  understand  this  tale  aright,  that  to  undress  a 
woman  was  then  a  very  different  thing  from  what  it  must 
be  now.  What  are  the  clothes  that  your  ladies  of  these 
days  are  wearing?  In  themselves  as  little  as  possible — a 
few  perpendicular  lines,  cut  off  again  before  they  have 
had  time  to  develop  any  sense.  There  is  no  plan  about 
them.  They  exist  for  the  sake  of  the  body,  and  have  no 
career  of  their  own,  or,  if  they  have  any  mission  at  all,  it 
is  to  reveal. 

"But  in  those  days  a  woman's  body  was  a  secret  which 
her  clothes  did  their  utmost  to  keep.  We  would  walk 
about  in  the  streets  in  bad  weather  in  order  to  catch  a 
glimpse  of  an  ankle,  the  sight  of  which  must  be  as  familiar 
to  you  young  men  of  the  present  day  as  the  stems  of  these 
wineglasses  of  ours.  Clothes  then  had  a  being,  an  idea  of 
their  own.  With  a  serenity  that  it  was  not  easy  to  look 
through,  they  made  it  their  object  to  transform  the  body 
which  they  encircled,  and  to  create  a  silhouette  so  far 
from  its  real  form  as  to  make  it  a  mystery  which  it  was 

16 


Isak  Dinesen 

a  divine  privilege  to  solve.  The  long  tight  stays,  the 
whalebones,  skirts  and  petticoats,  bustle  and  draperies, 
all  that  mass  of  material  under  which  the  women  of  my 
day  were  buried  where  they  were  not  laced  together  as 
tightly  as  they  could  possibly  stand  it — all  aimed  at  one 
thing:  to  disguise. 

"Out  of  a  tremendous  froth  of  trains,  pleatings,  lace, 
and  flounces  which  waved  and  undulated,  secundum  artem, 
at  every  movement  of  the  bearer,  the  waist  would  shoot 
up  like  the  chalice  of  a  flower,  carrying  the  bust,  high  and 
rounded  as  a  rose,  but  imprisoned  in  whalebone  up  to  the 
shoulder.  Imagine  now  how  different  life  must  have  ap- 
peared and  felt  to  creatures  living  in  those  tight  corsets 
within  which  they  could  just  manage  to  breathe,  and  in 
those  fathoms  of  clothes  which  they  dragged  along  with 
them  wherever  they  walked  or  sat,  and  who  never  dreamed 
that  it  could  be  otherwise,  compared  to  the  existence  of 
your  young  women,  whose  clothes  hardly  touch  them  and 
take  up  no  room.  A  woman  was  then  a  work  of  art,  the 
product  of  centuries  of  civilization,  and  you  talked  of  her 
figure  as  you  talked  of  her  salon,  with  the  admiration 
which  one  gives  to  the  achievement  of  a  skilled  and  un- 
tiring artist. 

"And  underneath  all  this  Eve  herself  breathed  and 
moved,  to  be  indeed  a  revelation  to  us  every  time  she 
stepped  out  of  her  disguise,  with  her  waist  still  delicately 
marked  by  the  stays,  as  with  a  girdle  of  rose  petals. 

"To  you  young  people  who  laugh  at  the  ideas,  as  at 
the  bustles,  of  the  'seventies,  and  who  will  tell  me  that  in 
spite  of  all  our  artificiality  there  can  have  been  but  little 
mystery  left  to  any  of  us,  may  I  be  allowed  to  say  that 
you  do  not,  perhaps,  quite  understand  the  meaning  of  the 
word?  Nothing  is  mysterious  until  it  symbolizes  some- 
thing. The  bread  and  wine  of  the  church  itself  has  to  be 
baked  and  bottled,  I  suppose.  The  women  of  those  days 
were  more  than  a  collection  of  individuals.  They  sym- 


The  Old  Chevalier 

bolized,  or  represented,  Woman.  I  understand  that  the 
word  itself,  in  that  sense,  has  gone  out  of  the  language. 
Where  we  talked  of  woman — pretty  cynically,  we  liked 
to  think — you  talk  of  women,  and  all  the  difference  lies 
there. 

"Do  you  remember  the  scholars  of  the  middle  ages  who 
discussed  the  question  of  which  had  been  created  first: 
the  idea  of  a  dog,  or  the  individual  dogs?  To  you,  who  are 
taught  statistics  in  your  kindergartens,  there  is  no  doubt, 
I  suppose.  And  it  is  but  justice  to  say  that  your  world 
does  in  reality  look  as  if  it  had  been  made  experimentally. 
But  to  us  even  the  ideas  of  old  Mr.  Darwin  were  new  and 
strange.  We  had  our  ideas  from  such  undertakings  as 
symphonies  and  ceremonials  of  court,  and  had  been 
brought  up  with  strong  feelings  about  the  distinction  be- 
tween legitimate  and  illegitimate  birth.  We  had  faith  in 
purpose.  The  idea  of  Woman — of  das  ewig  weibliche, 
about  which  you  yourself  will  not  deny  that  there  is  some 
mystery — had  to  us  been  created  in  the  beginning,  and 
our  women  made  it  their  mission  to  represent  it  worthily, 
as  I  suppose  the  mission  of  the  individual  dog  must  have 
been  worthily  to  represent  the  Creator's  idea  of  a  dog. 

"You  could  follow,  then,  the  development  of  this  idea 
in  a  little  girl,  as  she  was  growing  up  and  was  gradually, 
no  doubt  in  accordance  with  very  ancient  rules,  inaugu- 
rated into  the  rites  of  the  cult,  and  finally  ordained. 
Slowly  the  center  of  gravity  of  her  being  would  be  shifted 
from  individuality  to  symbol,  and  you  would  be  met  with 
that  particular  pride  and  modesty  characteristic  of  the 
representative  of  the  great  powers — such  as  you  may  find 
again  in  a  really  great  artist.  Indeed,  the  haughtiness  of 
the  pretty  young  girl,  or  the  old  ladies'  majesty,  existed 
no  more  on  account  of  personal  vanity,  or  on  any  personal 
account  whatever,  than  did  the  pride  of  Michelangelo 
himself,  or  the  Spanish  Ambassador  to  France.  However 
much  greeted  at  the  banks  of  the  Styx  by  the  indignation 

18 


Isak  Dinesen 

of  his  individual  victims  with  flowing  hair  and  naked 
breasts,  Don  Giovanni  would  have  been  acquitted  by  a 
board  of  women  of  my  day,  sitting  in  judgment  on  him, 
for  the  sake  of  his  great  faith  in  the  idea  of  Woman.  But 
they  would  have  agreed  with  the  masters  of  Oxford  in 
condemning  Shelley  as  an  atheist;  and  they  managed  to 
master  Christ  himself  only  by  representing  him  forever 
as  an  infant  in  arms,  dependent  upon  the  Virgin. 

"The  multitude  outside  the  temple  of  mystery  is  not 
very  interesting.  The  real  interest  lies  with  the  priest 
inside.  The  crowd  waiting  at  the  porch  for  the  fulfillment 
of  the  miracle  of  the  boiling  blood  of  St.  Pantaleone — 
that  I  have  seen  many  times  and  in  many  places.  But 
very  rarely  have  I  had  admittance  to  the  cool  vaults  be- 
hind, or  the  chance  of  seeing  the  priests,  old  and  young, 
down  to  the  choirboys,  who  feel  themselves  to  be  the  most 
important  persons  at  the  ceremony,  and  are  both  scared 
and  impudent,  occupying  themselves,  in  a  measure  of 
their  own,  with  the  preparations,  guardians  of  a  mystery 
that  they  know  all  about.  What  was  the  cynicism  of 
Lord  Byron,  or  of  Baudelaire,  whom  we  were  just  reading 
then  with  the  frisson  nouveau,  to  the  cynicism  of  these 
little  priestesses,  augurs  all  of  them,  performing  with  the 
utmost  conscientiousness  all  the  rites  of  a  religion  which 
they  knew  all  about  and  did  not  believe  in,  upholding,  I 
feel  sure,  the  doctrine  of  their  mystery  even  amongst 
themselves.  Our  poets  of  those  days  would  tell  us  how  a 
party  of  young  beauties,  behind  the  curtains  of  the 
bathing-machine,  would  blush  and  giggle  as  they  'put 
lilies  in  water.' 

"  I  do  not  know  if  you  remember  the  tale  of  the  girl  who 
saves  the  ship  under  mutiny  by  sitting  on  the  powder 
barrel  with  her  lighted  torch,  threatening  to  put  fire  to  it, 
and  all  the  time  knowing  herself  that  it  is  empty?  This 
has  seemed  to  me  a  charming  image  of  the  woman  of  my 
time.  There  they  were,  keeping  the  world  in  order,  and 

19 


The  Old  Chevalier 

preserving  the  balance  and  rhythm  of  it,  by  sitting  upon 
the  mystery  of  life,  and  knowing  themselves  that  there 
was  no  mystery.  I  have  heard  you  young  people  saying 
that  the  women  of  old  days  had  no  sense  of  humor.  Think- 
ing of  the  face  of  my  young  girl  upon  the  barrel,  with 
severely  downcast  eyes,  I  have  wondered  if  our  famous 
male  humor  be  not  a  little  insipid  compared  to  theirs.  If 
we  were  more  thankful  to  them  for  existing  than  you  are 
to"  your  women  of  the  present  day,  I  think  that  we  had 
good  reason  for  it. 

"I  trust  that  you  will  not  mind,"  he  said,  "an  old  man 
lingering  over  these  pictures  of  an  age  gone  by.  It  will  be, 
I  suppose,  like  being  detained  a  little  in  a  museum,  before 
a  montre  showing  its  fashions.  You  may  laugh  at  them,  if 
you  like." 

The  old  chevalier  then  resumed  his  story: 

As  I  then  undressed  this  young  girl,  and  the  layers  of 
clothes  which  so  severely  dominated  and  concealed  her 
fell  one  by  one  there  in  front  of  my  fire,  in  the  light  of  my 
large  lamp,  itself  swathed  in  layers  of  silk — all,  my  dear, 
was  thus  draped  in  those  days,  and  my  large  chairs  had,  I 
remember,  long  silk  fringes  all  around  them  and  on  the 
tops  of  those  little  velvet  pompons.  Otherwise  they  would 
not  have  been  thought  really  pretty — until  she  stood 
naked,  I  had  before  me  the  greatest  masterpiece  of  nature 
that  my  eyes  have  ever  been  privileged  to  rest  upon,  a 
sight  to  take  away  your  breath.  I  know  that  there  may 
be  something  very  lovable  in  the  little  imperfections  of 
the  female  form,  and  I  have  myself  worshiped  a  knock- 
kneed  Venus,  but  this  young  figure  was  pathetic,  was 
heart-piercing,  by  reason  of  its  pure  faultlessness.  She  was 
so  young  that  you  felt,  in  the  midst  of  your  deep  admira- 
tion, the  anticipation  of  a  still  higher  perfection,  and  that 
was  all  there  was  to  be  said. 

All  her  body  shone  in  the  light,  delicately  rounded  and 

20 


Isak  Dinesen 

smooth  as  marble.  One  straight  line  ran  through  it  from 
neck  to  ankle,  as  through  the  heaven-aspiring  column  of  a 
young  tree.  The  same  character  was  expressed  in  the  high 
instep  of  the  foot,  as  she  pushed  off  her  old  shoes,  as  in 
the  curve  of  the  chin,  as  in  the  straight,  gentle  glance  of 
her  eyes,  and  the  delicate  and  strong  lines  of  her  shoulder 
and  wrist. 

The  comfort  of  the  warmth  of  the  fire  on  her  skin,  after 
the  clinging  of  her  wet  and  tumbled  clothes,  made  her  sigh 
with  pleasure  and  turn  a  little,  like  a  cat.  She  laughed 
softly,  like  a  child  who  quits  the  doorstep  of  school  for  a 
holiday.  She  stood  up  erect  before  the  fire;  her  wet  curls 
fell  down  over  her  forehead  and  she  did  not  try  to  push 
them  back;  her  bright  painted  cheeks  looked  even  more 
like  a  doll's  above  her  fair  naked  body. 

I  think  that  all  my  soul  was  in  my  eyes.  Reality  had 
met  me,  such  a  short  time  ago,  in  such  an  ugly  shape,  that 
I  had  no  wish  to  come  into  contact  with  it  again.  Some- 
where in  me  a  dark  fear  was  still  crouching,  and  I  took  ref- 
uge within  the  fantastic  like  a  distressed  child  in  his  book 
of  fairy  tales.  I  did  not  want  to  look  ahead,  and  not  at 
all  to  look  back.  I  felt  the  moment  close  over  me,  like  a 
wave.  I  drank  a  large  glass  of  wine  to  catch  up  with  her, 
looking  at  her. 

I  was  so  young  then  that  I  could  no  more  than  other 
young  people  give  up  the  deep  faith  in  my  own  star,  in  a 
power  that  loved  me  and  looked  after  me  in  preference  to 
all  other  human  beings.  No  miracle  was  incredible  to  me 
as  long  as  it  happened  to  myself.  It  is  when  this  faith 
begins  to  wear  out,  and  when  you  conceive  the  possibility 
of  being  in  the  same  position  as  other  people,  that  youth 
is  really  over.  I  was  not  surprised  or  suspicious  of  this  act 
of  favor  on  the  part  of  the  gods,  but  I  think  that  my  heart 
was  filled  with  a  very  sweet  gratitude  toward  them.  I 
thought  it  after  all  only  reasonable,  only  to  be  expected, 
that  the  great  friendly  power  of  the  universe  should  mani- 

21 


The  Old  Chevalier 

fest  itself  again,  and  send  me,  out  of  the  night,  as  a  help 
and  consolation,  this  naked  and  drunk  young  girl,  a  mir- 
acle of  gracefulness. 

We  sat  down  to  supper,  Nathalie  and  I,  high  up  there  in 
my  warm  and  quiet  room,  with  the  great  town  below  us 
and  my  heavy  silk  curtains  drawn  upon  the  wet  night, 
like  two  owls  in  a  ruined  tower  within  the  depth  of  the 
forest,  and  nobody  in  the  world  knew  about  us.  She  leaned 
one  arm  on  the  table  and  rested  her  head  on  it.  I  think 
that  she  was  very  hungry,  under  the  influence  of  the  food. 
We  had  some  caviar,  I  remember,  and  a  cold  bird.  She 
began  to  beam  on  me,  to  laugh,  to  talk  to  me,  and  to  listen 
to  what  I  said  to  her. 

I  do  not  remember  what  we  talked  about.  I  think  we 
were  very  open-hearted,  and  that  I  told  her,  what  I  could 
not  have  mentioned  to  anybody  else,  of  how  I  had  come 
near  to  being  poisoned  just  before  I  met  her.  I  also  think 
that  I  must  have  told  her  about  my  country,  for  I  know 
that  at  a  time  afterwards  the  idea  came  to  me  that  she 
would  write  to  me  there,  or  even  come  to  look  for  me.  I 
remember  that  she  told  me,  rather  sadly  to  begin  with,  a 
story  of  a  very  old  monkey  which  could  do  tricks,  and  had 
belonged  to  an  Armenian  organ-grinder.  Its  master  had 
died,  and  now  it  wanted  to  do  its  tricks  and  was  always 
waiting  for  the  catchword,  but  nobody  knew  it.  In  the 
course  of  this  tale  she  imitated  the  monkey  in  the  funniest 
and  most  gracefully  inspired  manner  that  one  can  imagine. 
But  I  remember  most  of  her  movements.  Sometimes  I 
have  thought  that  the  understanding  of  some  pieces  of 
music  for  violin  and  piano  has  come  to  me  through  the 
contemplation  of  the  contrast,  or  the  harmony,  between 
her  long  slim  hand  and  her  short  rounded  chin  as  she  held 
the  glass  to  her  mouth. 

I  have  never  in  any  other  love  affair — if  this  can  be 
called  a  love  affair — had  the  same  feeling  of  freedom  and 
security.  In  my  last  adventure  I  had  all  the  time  been 

22 


Isak  Dinesen 

worrying  to  find  out  what  my  mistress  really  thought  of 
me,  and  what  part  I  was  playing  in  the  eyes  of  the  world. 
But  no  such  doubts  or  fears  could  possibly  penetrate  into 
our  little  room  here.  I  believe  that  this  feeling  of  safety 
and  perfect  freedom  must  be  what  happily  married  people 
mean  when  they  talk  about  the  two  being  one.  I  wonder 
if  that  understanding  can  possibly,  in  marriage,  be  as 
harmonious  as  when  you  meet  as  strangers;  but  this,  I 
suppose,  is  a  matter  of  taste. 

One  thing  did  play  in  to  both  of  us,  though  we  were  not 
conscious  of  it.  The  world  outside  was  bad,  was  dreadful. 
Life  had  made  a  very  nasty  face  at  me,  and  must  have 
made  a  worse  at  her.  But  this  room  and  this  night  were 
ours,  and  were  faithful  to  us.  Although  we  did  not  think 
about  it,  ours  was  in  reality  a  supper  of  the  Girondists. 

The  wine  helped  us.  I  had  not  drunk  much,  but  my 
head  was  fairly  light  before  I  began.  Champagne  is  a 
very  kind  and  friendly  thing  on  a  rainy  night.  I  remember 
an  old  Danish  bishop's  saying  to  me  that  there  are  many 
ways  to  the  recognition  of  truth,  and  that  Burgundy  is 
one  of  them.  This  is,  I  know,  very  well  for  an  old  man 
within  his  paneled  study.  But  young  people,  who  have 
seen  the  devil  face  to  face,  need  a  stronger  helping  hand. 
Over  our  softly  hissing  glasses  we  were  brought  back  to 
seeing  ourselves  and  this  night  of  ours  as  a  great  artist 
might  have  seen  us  and  it,  worthy  of  the  genius  of  a  god. 

I  had  a  guitar  lying  on  my  sofa,  for  I  was  to  serenade,  in 
a  tableau  vivant,  a  romantic  beauty — in  real  life  an  Ameri- 
can woman  from  the  Embassy  who  could  not  have  given 
you  an  echo  back  from  whatever  angle  you  would  have 
cried  to  her.  Nathalie  reached  out  for  it,  a  little  later  in 
our  supper.  She  shuddered  slightly  at  the  first  sound,  for 
I  had  not  had  time  or  thought  for  playing  it,  and  crossing 
her  knees,  in  my  large  low  chair,  she  began  to  tune  it. 
Then  she  sang  two  little  songs  to  me.  In  my  quiet  room 
her  low  voice,  a  little  hoarse,  was  clear  as  a  bell,  faintly 

23 


The  Old  Chevalier 

giddy  with  happiness,  like  a  bee's  in  a  flower.  She  sang 
first  a  song  from  the  music  halls,  a  gay  tune  with  a  striking 
rhythm.  Then  she  thought  for  a  moment  and  changed 
over  into  a  strange  plaintive  little  song  in  a  language  that 
I  did  not  understand.  She  had  a  great  sense  of  music. 
That  strong  and  delicate  personality  which  showed  itself 
in  all  her  body  came  out  again  in  her  voice.  The  light 
metallic  timbre,  the  straightness  and  ease  of  it,  corre- 
sponded with  her  eyes,  knees,  and  fingers.  Only  it  was  a 
little  richer  and  fuller,  as  if  it  had  grown  up  faster  or  had 
stolen  a  march  somehow  upon  her  body.  Her  voice  knew 
more  than  she  did  herself,  as  did  the  bow  of  Mischa  Elman 
when  he 'played  as  a  Wunderkind. 

All  my  balance,  which  I  had  kept  somehow  while 
looking  at  her,  suddenly  left  me  at  the  sound  of  her  voice. 
These  words  that  I  did  not  understand  seemed  to  me  more 
directly  meaningful  than  any  I  had  ever  understood.  I 
s#t  in  another  low  chair,  opposite  her.  I  remember  the 
silence  when  her  song  was  finished,  and  that  I  pushed  the 
table  away,  and  how  I  came  slowly  down  on  one  knee 
before  her.  She  looked  at  me  with  such  a  clear,  severe, 
wild  look  as  I  think  that  a  hawk's  eyes  must  have  when 
they  lift  off  his  hood.  I  went  down  on  my  other  knee  and 
put  my  arms  around  her  legs.  I  do  not  know  what  there 
was  in  my  face  to  convince  her,  but  her  own  face  changed 
and  lighted  up  with  a  kind  of  heroic  gentleness.  Altogether 
there  had  been  from  the  beginning  something  heroic  about 
her.  That  was,  I  think,  what  had  made  her  put  up  with 
the  young  fool  that  I  was.  For  du  ridicule  jusqu'au  su- 
blime, surely,  il  n'y  a  qu'un  pas. 

My  friend,  she  was  as  innocent  as  she  looked.  She  was 
the  first  young  girl  who  had  been  mine.  There  is  a  theory 
that  a  very  young  man  should  not  make  love  to  a  virgin, 
but  ought  to  have  a  more  experienced  partner.  That  is 
not  true;  it  is  the  only  natural  thing. 

It  must  have  been  an  hour  or  two  later  in  the  night  that 

24 


Isak  Dinesen 

I  woke  up  to  the  feeling  that  something  was  wrong,  or 
dangerous.  We  say  when  we  turn  suddenly  cold  that 
someone  is  walking  over  our  grave — the  future  brings 
itself  into  memory.  And  as  Von  meurt  en  plein  bonheur  de 
ses  malheurs  passes,  so  do  we  let  go  our  hold  of  our  present 
happiness  on  account  of  coming  misfortune.  It  was  not 
the  omne  animal  affair  only;  it  was  a  distrust  of  the  future 
as  if  I  had  heard  myself  asking  it:  "I  am  to  pay  for  this; 
what  am  I  to  pay?"  But  at  the  time  I  may  have  believed 
that  what  I  felt  was  only  fear  of  her  going  away. 

Once  before  she  had  sat  up  and  moved  as  if  to  leave  me, 
and  I  had  dragged  her  back.  Now  she  said:  "I  must  go 
back,"  and  got  up.  The  lamp  was  still  burning,  the  fire 
was  smoldering.  It  seemed  to  me  natural  that  she  should 
be  taken  away  by  the  same  mysterious  forces  which  had 
brought  her,  like  Cinderella,  or  a  little  spirit  out  of  the 
Arabian  Nights.  I  was  waiting  for  her  to  come  up  and  let 
me  know  when  she  would  come  back  to  me,  and  what  I 
was  to  do.  All  the  same  I  was  more  silent  now. 

She  dressed  and  got  back  into  her  black  shabby  dis- 
guise. She  put  on  her  hat  and  stood  there  just  as  I  had 
seen  her  first  in  the  rain  on  the  avenue.  Then  she  came 
up  to  me  where  I  was  sitting  on  the  arm  of  my  chair,  and 
said:  "And  you  will  give  me  twenty  francs,  will  you  not?" 
As  I  did  not  answer,  she  repeated  her  question  and  said: 
"Marie  said  that — she  said  that  I  should  get  twenty 
francs." 

I  did  not  speak.  I  sat  there  looking  at  her.  Her  clear 
and  light  eyes  met  mine. 

A  great  clearness  came  upon  me  then,  as  if  all  the  illu- 
sions and  arts  with  which  we  try  to  transform  our  world, 
coloring  and  music  and  dreams,  had  been  drawn  aside, 
and  reality  was  shown  to  me,  waste  as  a  burnt  house. 
This  was  the  end  of  the  play.  There  was  no  room  for  any 
superfluous  word. 

This  was  the  first  moment,  I  think,  since  I  had  met  her 


The  Old  Chevalier 

those  few  hours  ago,  in  which  I  saw  her  as  a  human  being, 
within  an  existence  of  her  own,  and  not  as  a  gift  to  me.  I 
believe  that  all  thoughts  of  myself  left  me  at  the  sight, 
but  now  it  was  too  late. 

We  two  had  played.  A  rare  jest  had  been  offered  me 
and  I  had  accepted  it;  now  it  was  up  to  me  to  keep  the 
spirit  of  our  game  until  the  end.  Her  own  demand  was  well 
within  the  spirit  of  the  night.  For  the  palace  which  he 
builds,  for  four  hundred  white  and  four  hundred  black 
slaves  all  loaded  with  jewels,  the  djinn  asks  for  an  old 
copper  lamp;  and  the  forest-witch  who  moves  three 
towns  and  creates  for  the  woodcutter's  son  an  army  of 
horse-soldiers  demands  for  herself  the  heart  of  a  hare. 
The  girl  asked  me  for  her  pay  in  the  voice  and  manner  of 
the  djinn  and  the  forest-witch,  and  if  I  were  to  give  her 
twenty  francs  she  might  still  be  safe  within  the  magic 
circle  of  her  free  and  graceful  and  defiant  spirit.  It  was  I 
who  was  out  of  character,  as  I  sat  there  in  silence,  with  all 
the  weight  of  the  cold  and  real  world  upon  me,  knowing 
well  that  I  should  have  to  answer  her  or  I  might,  even 
within  these  few  seconds,  pass  it  on  to  her. 

Later  on  I  reflected  that  I  might  have  had  it  in  me  to 
invent  something  which  would  have  kept  her  safe,  and 
still  have  allowed  me  to  keep  her.  I  thought  then  that  I 
should  only  have  had  to  give  her  twenty  francs  and  to 
have  said:  "And  if  you  want  another  twenty,  come  back 
tomorrow  night."  If  she  had  been  less  lovely  to  me,  if 
she  had  not  been  so  young  and  so  innocent,  I  might  per- 
haps have  done  it.  But  this  young  girl  had  called,  during 
our  few  hours,  on  all  the  chivalrousness  that  I  had  in  my 
nature.  And  chivalrousness,  I  think,  means  this:  to  love, 
or  cherish,  the  pride  of  your  partner,  or  of  your  adversary, 
as  you  will  define  it,  as  highly  as,  or  higher  than,  your  own. 
Or  if  I  had  been  as  innocent  of  heart  as  she  was,  I  might 
perhaps  have  thought  of  it,  but  I  had  kept  company  with 
this  deadly  world  of  reality.  I  was  practiced  in  its  laws 

26 


Isak  Dinesen 

and  had  the  mortal  bacilli  of  its  ways  in  my  blood.  Now  it 
did  not  enter  my  head  any  more  than  it  ever  has  to  alter 
my  answers  in  church.  When  the  priest  says:  "O  God, 
make  clean  our  hearts  within  us,"  I  have  never  thought  of 
telling  him  that  it  is  not  needed,  or  to  answer  anything 
whatever  but,  "And  take  not  your  holy  spirit  from  us." 

So,  as  if  it  were  the  only  natural  and  reasonable  thing 
to  do,  I  took  out  twenty  francs  and  gave  them  to  her. 

Before  she  went  she  did  a  thing  that  I  have  never  for- 
gotten. With  my  note  in  her  left  hand  she  stood  close  to 
me.  She  did  not  kiss  me  or  take  my  hand  to  say  good-by, 
but  with  the  three  fingers  of  her  right  hand  she  lifted  my 
chin  up  a  little  and  looked  at  me,  gave  me  an  encouraging, 
consoling  glance,  such  as  a  sister  might  give  her  brother 
in  farewell.  Then  she  went  away. 

In  the  days  that  followed — not  the  first  days,  but  later — 
I  tried  to  construct  for  myself  some  theory  and  explana- 
tion of  my  adventure. 

This  happened  only  a  short  time  after  the  fall  of  the 
Second  Empire,  that  strange  sham  millennium,  and  the 
Commune  of  Paris.  The  atmosphere  had  been  filled  with 
catastrophe.  A  world  had  fallen.  The  Empress  herself, 
whom,  on  a  visit  to  Paris  as  a  child,  I  had  envisaged 
as  a  female  deity  resting  upon  clouds,  smilingly  conduct- 
ing the  ways  of  humanity,  had  flown  in  the  night,  in  a 
carriage  with  her  American  dentist,  miserable  for  the  lack 
of  a  handkerchief.  The  members  of  her  court  were  crowded 
into  lodgings  in  Brussels  and  London  while  their  country 
houses  served  as  stables  for  the  Prussians'  horses.  The 
Commune  had  followed,  and  the  massacres  in  Paris  by 
the  Versailles  army.  A  whole  world  must  have  tumbled 
down  within  these  months  of  disaster. 

This  was  also  the  time  of  Nihilism  in  Russia,  when  the 
revolutionaries  had  lost  all  and  were  fleeing  into  exile. 
I  thought  of  them  because  of  the  little  song  that  Nathalie 
had  sung  to  me,  of  which  I  had  not  understood  the  words. 

27 


The  Old  Chevalier 

Whatever  it  was  that  had  happened  to  her,  it  must 
have  been  a  catastrophe  of  an  extraordinarily  violent  na- 
ture. She  must  have  gone  down  with  a  unique  swiftness, 
or  she  would  have  known  something  of  the  resignation, 
the  dreadful  reconciliation  to  fate  which  life  works  upon 
us  when  it  gets  time  to  impress  us  drop  by  drop. 

Also,  I  thought,  she  must  have  been  tied  to,  and  dragged 
down  with,  somebody  else,  for  if  she  had  been  alone  it 
could  not  have  happened.  It  would  have  been,  I  reflected, 
somebody  who  held  her,  and  yet  was  unable  to  help  her, 
someone  either  very  old,  helpless  from  shock  and  ruin,  or 
very  young,  children  or  a  child,  a  little  brother  or  sister. 
Left  to  herself  she  would  have  floated,  or  she  would  have 
been  picked  up  near  the  surface  by  someone  who  would 
have  valued  her  rare  beauty,  grace,  and  charm  and  have 
congratulated  himself  upon  acquiring  them;  or,  lower 
down,  by  somebody  who  might  not  have  understood  them, 
but  whom  they  would  still  have  impressed.  Or,  near  the 
bottom,  by  people  who  would  have  thought  of  turning 
them  to  their  own  advantage.  But  she  must  have  gone 
straight  down  from  the  world  of  beauty  and  harmony  in 
which  she  had  learned  that  confidence  and  radiance  of 
hers,  where  they  had  taught  her  to  sing,  and  to  move  and 
laugh  as  she  did,  where  they  had  loved  her,  to  a  world 
where  beauty  and  grace  are  of  no  account,  and  where  the 
facts  of  life  look  you  in  the  face,  quite  straight  to  ruin, 
desolation  and  starvation.  And  there,  on  the  last  step  of 
the  ladder,  had  been  Marie,  whoever  she  was,  a  friend  who 
out  of  her  narrow  and  dark  knowledge  of  the  world  had 
given  her  advice,  and  lent  her  the  miserable  clothes,  and 
poured  some  sort  of  spirit  into  her,  to  give  her  courage. 

About  all  this  I  thought  much,  and  for  a  long  time;  but 
of  course  I  could  not  know. 

As  soon  as  she  had  gone  and  I  was  alone — so  strange 
are  the  automatic  movements  which  we  make  within  the 
hands  of  fate — I  had  no  thought  but  to  go  after  her  and 

28 


Isak  Dinesen 

get  her  back.  I  think  that  I  went,  in  those  minutes, 
through  the  exact  experience,  even  to  the  sensation  of 
suffocation,  of  a  person  who  has  been  buried  alive.  But  I 
had  no  clothes  on.  When  I  got  into  some  clothes  and  came 
down  to  the  street  it  was  empty.  I  walked  about  in  the 
streets  for  a  long  time.  I  came  back,  in  the  course  of  the 
early  morning,  to  the  seat  on  which  I  had  been  sitting  when 
she  first  spoke  to  me,  and  to  the  hotel  of  my  former  mis- 
tress. I  thought  what  a  strange  thing  is  a  young  man  who 
runs  about,  within  the  selfsame  night,  driven  by  the  mad 
passion  and  loss  of  two  women.  Mercutio's  words  to 
Romeo  about  it  came  into  my  mind,  and,  as  if  I  had  been 
shown  a  brilliant  caricature  of  myself  or  of  all  young  men, 
I  laughed.  When  the  day  began  to  spring  I  walked  back 
to  my  room,  and  there  was  the  lamp,  still  burning,  and  the 
supper  table. 

This  state  of  mine  lasted  for  some  time.  During  the 
first  days  it  was  not  so  bad,  for  I  lived  then  in  the  thought 
of  going  down,  at  the  same  hour,  to  the  same  place  where 
I  had  met  her  first.  I  thought  that  she  might  come  there 
again.  I  attached  much  hope  to  this  idea,  which  only 
slowly  died  away. 

I  tried  many  things  to  make  it  possible  to  live.  One 
night  I  went  to  the  opera,  because  I  had  heard  other 
people  talk  about  going  there.  It  was  clear  that  it  was 
done,  and  there  might  be  something  in  it.  It  happened 
to  be  a  performance  of  Orpheus.  Do  you  remember  the 
music  where  he  implores  the  shadows  in  Hades,  and  where 
Euridice  is  for  such  a  short  time  given  back  to  him?  There 
I  sat,  in  the  brilliant  light  of  the  entr'actes,  a  young  man  in 
a  white  tie  and  lavender  gloves,  with  bright  people  who 
smiled  and  talked  all  around,  some  of  them  nodding  to 
me,  closely  covered  and  wrapped  up  in  the  huge  black 
wings  of  the  Eumenides. 

At  this  time  I  developed  also  another  theory.  I  thought 
of  the  goddess  Nemesis,  and  I  believed  that  had  I  not  had 

29 


The  Old  Chevalier 

the  moment  of  doubt  and  fear  in  the  night,  I  might  have 
felt,  in  the  morning,  the  strength  in  me,  and  the  right,  to 
move  her  destiny  and  mine.  It  is  said  about  the  highway- 
men who  in  the  old  days  haunted  the  forests  of  Denmark 
that  they  used  to  have  a  wire  stretched  across  the  road 
with  a  bell  attached.  The  coaches  in  passing  would  touch 
the  wire  and  the  bell  would  ring  within  their  den  and  call 
out  the  robbers.  I  had  touched  the  wire  and  a  bell  had 
rung  somewhere.  The  girl  had  not  been  afraid,  but  I  had 
been  afraid.  I  had  asked:  "What  am  I  to  pay  for  this?" 
and  the  goddess  herself  had  answered:  "Twenty  francs," 
and  with  her  you  cannot  bargain.  You  think  of  many 
things,  when  you  are  young. 

All  this  is  now  a  long  time  ago.  The  Eumenides,  if 
they  will  excuse  me  for  saying  so,  are  like  fleas,  by  which 
I  was  also  much  worried  as  a  child.  They  like  young  blood, 
and  leave  us  alone  later  in  life.  I  have  had,  however,  the 
honor  of  having  them  on  me  once  more,  not  very  many 
years  ago.  I  had  sold  a  piece  of  my  land  to  a  neighbor, 
and  when  I  saw  it  again,  he  had  cut  down  the  forest  that 
had  been  on  it.  Where  were  now  the  green  shades,  the 
glades  and  the  hidden  footpaths?  And  when  I  then  heard 
again  the  whistle  of  their  wings  in  the  air,  it  gave  me,  with 
the  pain,  also  a  strange  feeling  of  hope  and  strength — it 
was,  after  all,  music  of  my  youth. 

"And  did  you  never  see  her  again?"  I  asked  him. 

"No,"  he  said,  and  then,  after  a  little  while,  "but  I  had 
a  fantasy  about  her,  a  fantaisie  macabre,  if  you  like. 

"Fifteen  years  later,  in  1889,  I  passed  through  Paris 
on  my  way  to  Rome,  and  stayed  there  for  a  few  days  to 
see  the  exhibition  and  the  Eiffel  Tower  which  they  had 
just  built.  One  afternoon  I  went  to  see  a  friend,  a  painter. 
He  had  been  rather  wild  as  a  young  artist,  but  later  had 
turned  about  completely,  and  was  at  the  time  studying 
anatomy  with  great  zeal,  after  the  example  of  Leonardo. 

30 


Isak  Dinesen 

I  stayed  there  over  the  evening,  and  after  we  had  discussed 
his  pictures,  and  art  in  general,  he  said  that  he  would  show 
me  the  prettiest  thing  that  he  had  in  his  studio.  It  was  a 
skull  from  which  he  was  drawing.  He  was  keen  to  explain 
its  rare  beauty  to  me.  'It  is  really,'  he  said,  'the  skull  of 
a  young  woman,  but  the  skull  of  Antinoiis  must  have 
looked  like  that,  if  one  had  been  able  to  get  hold  of  it.' 

"I  had  it  in  my  hand,  and  as  I  was  looking  at  the  broad, 
low  brow,  the  clear  and  noble  line  of  the  chin,  and  the  clean 
deep  sockets  of  the  eyes,  it  seemed  suddenly  familiar  to 
me.  The  white  polished  bone  shone  in  the  light  of  the 
lamp,  so  pure.  And  safe.  In  those  few  seconds  I  was  taken 
back  to  my  room  in  the  Place  Francois  I,  with  the  silk 
fringes  and  the  heavy  curtains,  on  a  rainy  night  of  fifteen 
years  before." 

"Did  you  ask  your  friend  anything  about  it?"  I  said. 

"No,"  said  the  old  man,  "what  would  have  been  the 
use?  He  would  not  have  known." 


REST  CURE 

by 
Kay  Boyle 


KAY  BOYLE,  born  in  1903  in  St.  Paul,  Minnesota,  has 
lived  much  since  her  marriage  in  France,  England,  and 
Austria.  Her  very  early  writing  dealt  with  social  conditions, 
"undoubtedly  due  to  my  mother's  great  interest  in  radical 
politics  and  pacifism"  "/  have  never  wholly  liked  the  work 
of  women  with  the  exception  of  Gertrude  Stein.  .  .  .  They 
don't  write  simply  or  violently  enough  for  my  taste.  .  .  . 
The  short  story  and  the  novel  are  adequate  finger  exercises, 
but  I,  for  one,  am  working  towards  a  broad  and  pure  poetic 
form."  (Quoted  from  Authors  Today  and  Yesterday.) 
Among  her  novels  are  Plagued  by  the  Nightingale,  Gentle- 
men, I  Address  You  Privately,  My  Next  Bride,  and  Death 
of  a  Man  (/pj(5).  Her  short  stories  appear  in  book  form 
under  the  titles:  The  First  Lover,  Wedding  Day,  and  The 
White  Horses  of  Vienna. 


REST  CURE 

HE  sat  in  the  sun  with  the  blanket  about  him,  con- 
sidering, with  his  hands  lying  out  like  emaciated 
strangers  before  him,  that  to-day  the  sun  would 
endure  a  little  longer.  Certainly  it  would  survive  until  the 
trees  below  the  terrace  effaced  it,  towards  four  o'clock, 
like  opened  parasols.  A  crime  it  had  been,  the  invalid 
thought,  turning  his  head  this  way  and  that,  to  have  ever 
built  up  one  house  before  another  in  such  a  way  that  one 
man's  habitation  cast  a  shadow  upon  another's.  The 
whole  sloping  coast  should  have  been  left  a  wilderness 
with  no  order  to  it,  stalked  and  leafed  with  the  great 
strong  trunks  and  foliage  of  these  parts.  Cactus  plants 
with  petals  a  yard  wide  and  yucca  tongues  as  thick  as 
elephant  trunks  were  sullenly  and  viciously  flourishing  all 
about  the  house.  Upon  the  terrace  had  a  further  attempt 
at  nicety  and  precision  been  made:  there  his  wife  had  seen 
to  it  that  geraniums  were  potted  into  the  wooden  boxes 
that  stood  along  the  wall. 

From  his  lounging  chair  he  could  reach  out  and,  with 
no  effort  beyond  that  of  raising  the  skeleton  of  his  hand, 
finger  the  parched  stems  of  the  geraniums.  The  south,  and 
the  Mediterranean  wind,  had  blistered  them  past  all  be- 
lief. They  bore  their  rosy  top-knots  or  their  soiled  white 
flowers  balanced  upon  their  thick  Italian  heads.  There  they 
were,  within  his  reach,  a  row  of  weary  washerwomen  lean- 
ing back  from  the  villainous  descent  of  the  coast.  What 
parched  scions  had  thrust  forth  from  their  stems  now 
served  to  obliterate  in  part  the  vision  of  the  sun.  With 

From  The  First  Lover  and  Other  Stories,  by  Kay  Boyle  (Harrison  Smith  & 
Robert  Haas,  copyright  1933,  New  York).  Reprinted  by  permission  of  Ann 
Watkins,  Inc.,  New  York, 

35 


Rest  Cure 

arms  akimbo  they  surrounded  him:  thin  burned  Italian 
women  with  their  meager  bundles  of  dirty  linen  on  their 
heads.  One  after  another,  with  a  flicker  of  irritation  for 
his  wife  lighting  his  eye,  he  fingered  them  at  the  waist  a 
moment,  and  then  snapped  off  each  stem.  One  after  an- 
other he  broke  their  stalks  in  two  and  dropped  them  away 
onto  the  pavings  beneath  his  lounging  chair.  When  he  had 
finished  off  what  plants  grew  within  his  reach,  he  lay  back 
exhausted,  sank,  thin  as  an  archer's  bow,  into  the  depths 
of  his  cushions. 

"They  kept  the  sun  off  me,"  he  was  thinking  in  abso- 
lution. 

In  spite  of  the  garden  and  its  vegetation,  he  would  have 
the  last  drops  of  sun.  He  had  closed  his  eyes,  and  there 
he  lay  looking  straight  ahead  of  him  into  the  fathomless 
black  pits  of  his  lids.  Even  here,  in  the  south,  in  the  sun 
even,  the  coal-mines  remained.  His  nostrils  were  sick 
with  the  smell  of  them  and  on  his  cheeks  he  felt  lingering 
the  slipping  mantle  of  the  English  fog.  He  had  not  seen 
the  mines  since  he  was  a  young  man,  but  nothing  he  had 
ever  done  between  would  alter  them.  There  he  sat  in  the 
sun  with  his  eyes  closed,  looking  into  their  depths. 

Because  his  father  had  been  a  miner,  he  was  thinking, 
the  black  of  the  pits  had  put  some  kind  of  blasphemy  on 
his  own  blood.  He  sat  with  his  eyes  closed  looking  directly 
into  the  blank  awful  mines.  Against  their  obscurity  he  set 
the  icicles  of  one  winter  when  the  war  was  on,  when  he 
had  spent  his  twilights  seeking  for  pinecones  under  the 
tall  trees  in  the  woods  behind  the  house.  In  Cornwall. 
What  a  vision!  How  beautiful  that  year,  and  many  other 
years,  might  have  been  had  it  not  been  for  the  sour  thought 
of  war.  Every  time  his  heart  had  lifted  for  a  hillside  or  a 
wave,  or  for  the  wind  blowing,  the  thought  of  the  turmoil 
going  on  had  beset  and  stricken  him.  It  had  lain  like  a 
burden  on  his  conscience  every  morning  when  he  was 
coming  awake.  The  first  light  moments  of  day  coming  had 

36 


Kay   Boyle 

warned  him  that  despite  the  blood  rising  in  his  body,  it 
was  no  time  to  rejoice.  The  war.  Ah,  yes,  the  war.  After 
the  mines,  it  had  been  the  war.  Whenever  he  had  be- 
lieved for  half  a  minute  in  man,  then  he  had  remembered 
that  the  war  was  going  on. 

For  a  little  while  one  February,  it  had  seemed  that  the 
colors  set  out  in  Monte  Carlo,  facing  the  Casino,  would 
obliterate  forever  the  angry  memories  his  heart  had 
stored  away.  The  great  mauve,  white,  and  deep  royal 
purple  bouquets  had  thrived  a  week  or  more,  as  if  rooted 
in  his  eyes.  Such  banks  and  beds  of  richly  petaled  flowers 
set  thick  as  thieves  or  thicker  on  the  cultivated  lawns 
conveyed  the  wish.  Their  artificial  physiognomies  masked 
the  earth  as  well  as  he  would  have  wished  his  own  features 
to  stand  guard  before  his  spirit.  The  invalid  lifted  his 
hand  and  touched  his  beard.  His  mouth  and  chin,  he 
thought  with  cunning  satisfaction,  were  marvelously 
concealed. 

The  sound  of  his  wife's  voice  speaking  in  the  room  that 
opened  behind  him  onto  the  terrace  roused  him  a  little  as 
he  sat  pondering  in  the  sun.  She  seemed  to  be  moving 
from  one  long  window  to  another,  arranging  flowers  in  the 
vases,  for  her  voice  would  come  across  the  pavings,  now 
strong  and  close,  now  distant  as  if  turned  away,  and  she 
was  talking  to  their  guest  about  some  sort  of  shrub  or  fern. 
A  special  kind,  the  like  of  which  she  could  find  nowhere 
on  the  Riviera.  It  thrived  in  the  cool  brisk  fogs  of  their 
own  land,  she  was  saying.  Her  voice  had  turned  towards 
him  again  and  was  ringing  clearly  across  the  terrace. 

"Those  are  beautiful  ones  you  have  there  now,"  said 
the  voice  of  the  gentleman. 

"Ah,  take  care!"  cried  out  his  wife's  voice,  somewhat 
dimmed  as  though  she  had  again  turned  towards  the  room. 
"I  was  afraid  you  had  pierced  your  hand,"  she  said  in  a 
moment. 

When  the  invalid  opened  his  eyes,  he  saw  that  the  sun 

37 


Rest  Cu  re 

was  even  now  beginning  to  glimmer  through  the  upper 
branches  of  the  trees,  was  lolling  along  the  prosperous  dark 
upper  boughs  as  if  in  preparation  for  descent.  Not  yet, 
he  thought,  not  yet.  He  raised  himself  on  his  elbows  and 
scanned  the  sky.  Scarcely  three-thirty,  surely,  he  was 
thinking.  The  sun  can't  be  going  down  at  once. 

uThe  sun  can't  be  going  down  yet  awhile,  can  it?"  he 
called  out  to  the  house. 

He  heard  the  gravel  of  the  pathway  sparkling  and 
spitting  out  from  under  the  soles  of  their  feet  as  they 
crossed  it,  and  then  his  wife's  heels  and  the  boots  of  the 
guest  struck  and  advanced  across  the  paving  stones. 

"Oh,  oh,  the  geraniums — "  said  his  wife  suddenly  by 
his  side. 

The  guest  had  raised  his  head  and  stood  squinting  up 
at  the  sun. 

"I  should  say  it  were  going  down,"  he  said  after  a 
moment. 

He  had  deliberately  stepped  before  the  rays  of  it  and 
stood  leaning  back  against  the  terrace-wall.  His  solid 
gray  head  had  served  to  cork  the  sunlight.  Like  a  wooden 
stopper,  thought  the  invalid,  painted  to  resemble  a  man. 
With  the  nose  of  a  wooden  stopper.  And  the  sightless  eyes. 
And  the  creases  when  he  speaks  or  smiles. 

"But  think  what  it  must  be  like  in  Paris  now,"  said  the 
gentleman.  "I  don't  know  how  you  feel,  but  I  can't  find 
words  to  say  how  grateful  I  am  for  being  here."  The 
guest,  thought  the  invalid  as  he  surveyed  him,  was  very 
conscious  of  being  a  guest — of  accepting  meals,  bed,  tea, 
society — and  his  smile  was  permanently  set  beneath  his 
nose. 

"Of  course  you  don't  know  how  I  feel,"  said  the  in- 
valid. He  lay  looking  sourly  up  at  his  guest.  "Would  you 
mind  moving  out  of  the  sun?"  As  the  visiting  gentleman 
skipped  out  of  the  way,  the  invalid  cleared  his  throat,  dis- 
solved the  little  pellet  of  phlegm  which  had  leapt  to  being 

38 


Kay  Boyle 

on  his  tongue  so  as  not  to  spit  before  them,  and  sank  back 
into  his  chair. 

"The  advantage — or  rather  one  of  the  advantages  of 
being  a  writer,"  said  the  visiting  gentleman  with  a  smile, 
"is  that  he  can  settle  down  wherever  the  fancy  takes  him. 
Now  a  publisher — " 

"Why  be  a  publisher?"  said  the  invalid  in  irritation. 
He  was  staring  again  into  the  black  blank  mines. 

His  wife  was  squatting  and  stooping  about  his  chair, 
gathering  up  in  her  dress  the  butchered  geraniums.  She 
said  not  a  word,  but  crouched  there  picking  them  care- 
fully up,  one  by  one.  By  her  side  had  appeared  a  little 
covered  basket,  and  within  it  rattled  a  pair  of  castanets. 

"I  am  sure  I  can  very  easily  turn  these  into  slips,"  she 
said  gently,  as  if  speaking  to  herself.  "A  little  snip  in  the 
right  place  and  they'll  be  as  good  as  new." 

"You  can  make  soup  out  of  them,"  said  the  invalid 
bitterly.  "What's  in  the  basket,"  he  said,  "making  a 
noise?" 

"Oh,  a  langouste!"  cried  out  his  wife.  She  had  just  re- 
membered. "We  bought  you  a  langouste,  alive,  at  the 
Beausoleil  market.  It's  as  lively  as  a  rig!" 

The  visiting  gentleman  burst  into  laughter.  The  invalid 
could  hear  him  gasping  with  enjoyment  by  his  side. 

"I  can't  bear  them  alive,"  said  the  invalid  testily.  He 
lay  listening  curiously  to  the  animal  rattling  his  jaws  and 
clawing  under  the  basket's  lid. 

"Oh,  but  with  mayonnaise!"  cried  his  wife.  "To- 
morrow!" 

"Why  doesn't  Mr.  What-do-you-call-him  answer  the 
question  I  put  him?"  asked  the  invalid  sourly.  His  mind 
was  possessed  with  the  thought  of  the  visiting  man.  "I 
asked  him  why  he  was  a  publisher,"  said  the  invalid. 
What  a  viper,  what  a  felon,  he  was  thinking,  to  come 
and  live  on  me  and  not  give  me  the  satisfaction  of  a 
quarrel!  He  was  not  a  young  man,  thought  the  invalid, 

39 


Rest  Cure 

with  his  little  remains  of  graying  hair,  but  he  had  all  the 
endurance  and  patience  of  a  younger  man  in  the  presence 
of  a  master.  All  the  smiling  and  bowing,  thought  the 
invalid  with  contempt,  and  all  the  obsequious  ways.  The 
man  was  standing  so  near  to  his  chair  that  he  could  hear 
his  breath  whistling  through  his  nostrils.  Maybe  his  eyes 
were  on  him,  the  invalid  was  thinking.  It  gave  him  a  turn 
to  -think  that  he  was  lying  there  exposed  in  the  sun  where 
the  visitor  could  examine  him  pore  by  pore.  Hair  by  hair 
could  the  visitor  take  him  in  and  record  him. 

"Oh,  I  beg  your  pardon,"  said  the  gentleman.  "I'm 
afraid  I  owe  you  an  apology.  You  see,  I'm  not  acdus- 
tomed  to  it." 

"To  what?"  said  the  invalid  sharply.  He  had  flashed 
his  eyes  open  and  looked  suspiciously  into  the  publisher's 
face. 

"To  seeing  you  flat  on  your  back,"  said  the  gentleman 
promptly. 

"You  covered  that  over  very  nicely,"  said  the  invalid. 
He  clasped  his  hands  across  his  sunken  bosom.  "You 
meant  to  say  something  else.  You  meant  to  say  DEATH," 
said  the  invalid  calmly.  "  I  heard  the  first  letter  of  it  on 
your  tongue." 

He  lay  back  in  his  chair  again  with  his  lids  fallen.  He 
could  distinctly  smell  the  foul  fumes  of  the  pits. 

"Elsa,"  he  said,  as  he  lay  twitching  in  the  light,  "I 
would  like  some  champagne.  JUST  BECAUSE,"  he  said 
sitting  up  abruptly,  "I've  written  a  few  books  doesn't 
mean  that  you  have  to  keep  the  truth  about  me  to  your- 
self." 

His  wife  went  off  across  the  terrace,  leaving  the  two 
men  together. 

"Don't  make  a  mistake,"  said  the  invalid  smiling 
grimly.  "Don't  make  any  mistake.  I'm  not  quite  finished. 
Not  QUITE.  I  still  have  a  little  more  to  write  about,"  he 
said.  "Don't  you  fool  yourself,  my  dear." 

40 


Kay  Boyle 

"Oh,  I  flatter  myself  that  I  don't,"  said  the  gentleman 
agreeably.  "I'm  convinced  there's  an  unlimited  amount 
still  to  come.  And  I  hope  to  have  the  honor  of  publishing 
some  of  it.  I'm  counting  on  that,  you  know."  He  ended 
on  a  playful  note  and  looked  coyly  at  the  invalid.  But 
every  spark  of  life  had  suddenly  expired  in  the  ill  man's 
face. 

"I  didn't  know  the  sun  would  be  off  the  terrace  so 
soon,"  he  said  blankly.  His  wife  had  returned  and  was 
opening  the  bottle,  carefully  and  without  error,  with  the 
end  of  her  pliant  thumb.  The  invalid  turned  on  his  side 
and  regarded  her:  a  great  strong  woman  whom  he  would 
never  forget,  never,  nor  the  surprisingly  slim  crescent  of 
her  flexible  thumb.  All  of  her  fingers,  he  lay  thinking  as 
he  watched  her,  were  soft  as  skeins  of  silk,  and  tied  in  at 
the  joints  and  knuckles  by  invisible  satin  bands  of  faintest 
rose.  And  there  was  the  visiting  gentleman  hovering  about 
her,  with  his  oh-let-me-please-mrs-oh-do-let-me-now.  But 
her  grip  on  the  neck  of  the  bottle  was  as  tenacious  as  a 
snake's.  She  lifted  her  head,  smiled,  and  shook  it  at  their 
guest. 

"Oh,  no,"  she  said,  "I'm  doing  beautifully." 

Just  as  she  spoke  the  cork  flew  out  and  hit  the  gentle- 
man square  in  the  forehead.  After  it  streamed  a  geyser  of 
purest  gold. 

"Oh,  oh,  oh,"  cried  the  invalid.  He  held  out  his  hands 
to  the  golden  spray.  "Oh,  pour  it  here!"  he  cried.  "Oh, 
buckets  of  it  going!  Oh,  pour  it  over  me,  Elsa!" 

The  color  had  flown  into  Elsa's  face  and  she  was  laugh- 
ing. Softly  and  breathlessly  she  ran  from  glass  to  glass. 
There  in  the  stems  played  the  clear  living  liquid,  like  a 
fountain  springing  upward.  Ah,  that,  ah,  that,  in  the 
inwards  of  a  man,  thought  the  invalid  joyfully!  Ah,  that, 
springing  again  and  again  in  the  belly  and  heart!  There 
in  the  glass  it  ran,  cascaded  in  needlepoints  the  length  of 
his  throat,  went  whistling  to  his  pulses. 


Rest  Cure 

The  invalid  set  down  his  empty  glass. 

"Elsa,"  he  said  gently,  "could  I  have  a  little  more 
champagne?" 

His  wife  had  risen  with  the  bottle  in  her  hand,  but  she 
looked  doubtfully  at  him. 

"Do  you  really  think  you  should?"  she  asked. 

"Yes,"  said  the  invalid.  He  watched  the  unbelievably 
pure  stuff  flowing  out  all  over  his  glass.  "Yes,"  he  said. 
"Of  course.  Of  course,  I  should." 

A  sweet  shy  look  of  love  had  begun  to  arch  in  his  eyes. 

"I'd  love  to  see  the  langouste"  he  said  gently.  "Do 
you  think  you  could  let  him  out  and  let  me  see  him  run 
around?" 

Elsa  set  down  her  glass  and  stooped  to  lift  the  cover  of 
the  basket.  There  was  the  green  armored  beast  lifting 
its  eyes,  as  if  on  hinges,  to  examine  the  light.  Such  an 
expression  he  had  seen  before,  thought  the  invalid  imme- 
diately. There  was  a  startling  likeness  in  those  small  au- 
dacious eyes.  Such  a  look  had  there  been  in  his  father's 
eyes:  that  look,  and  the  long  smooth  mustaches  drooping 
across  the  wee  clefted  chin,  gave  the  langouste  such  a  look 
of  his  father  that  he  exclaimed  aloud. 

"Be  careful,"  said  Elsa.  "His  claws  are  tied,  but 
still—" 

"I  must  have  him  out,"  said  the  invalid.  He  gripped 
the  langouste  firmly  about  the  hips.  He  looks  like  my 
father,  he  was  thinking.  I  must  have  him  out  where  I 
can  see. 

In  spite  of  its  shackles,  the  animal  contrived  to  wave 
his  wide  pinions  in  the  air  as  the  invalid  lifted  him  up  and 
set  him  on  the  rug  across  his  knees.  There  was  the  same 
line  of  sparkling  dew-like  substance  pearling  the  langouste' s 
lip,  the  same  weak  disappointed  lip,  like  the  eagle's  lip, 
and  the  bold  suspicious  eye.  Across  the  sloping  shoulders 
of  the  beast  lay  a  sprinkling  of  brilliant  dust,  as  black  as 
coal  dust  and  quite  as  luminous.  Just  as  his  father  had 

42 


Kay  Boyle 

looked  coming  home  at  night,  with  the  coal  dust  showered 
across  his  shoulders  like  a  deadly  mantle.  Just  such  a 
deadly  cloak  of  quartz  and  mica  and  the  rotted  roots  of 
fern.  Even  the  queer  blue  toothless  look  of  his  father 
about  the  jaws.  The  invalid  took  another  deep  swallow 
of  champagne  and  let  it  seep  quietly  through  his  flesh  and 
blood.  Then  he  lifted  his  hand  and  stroked  the  langouste 
gently.  You've  never  counted,  he  was  thinking  mildly. 
I've  led  my  life  very  well  without  you  in  it.  You  better 
go  back  to  the  mines  where  you  belong. 

When  he  lifted  up  the  langouste  to  peer  into  his  face, 
the  arms  of  the  beast  fell  ludicrously  open  as  if  he  were 
seeking  to  embrace  the  ailing  man.  He  could  see  his 
father  very  well  in  him,  coming  home  with  the  coal  dirt 
all  over  him  in  the  evening,  standing  by  the  door  that 
opened  in  by  halves,  opening  first  the  upper  half  and  then 
the  lower,  swaying  a  little  as  he  felt  for  the  latch  of  the 
lower  half  of  the  door.  With  the  beer  he  had  been  drink- 
ing, or  the  dew  of  the  Welsh  mist  shining  on  his  long 
mustaches.  The  invalid  gave  him  a  gentle  shake  and  set 
him  down  again. 

I  got  on  very  well  without  you,  he  was  thinking.  He 
sipped  at  his  champagne  and  regarded  the  animal  upon 
his  knees.  As  far  as  I  was  concerned.  As  far  as  I  was 
concerned  you  need  never  have  been  my  father  at  all. 
Slowly  and  warily  the  wondrous  eyes  and  feelers  of  the 
beast  moved  in  distrust  across  the  invalid's  lap  and 
bosom.  A  lot  of  good  you  ever  did  me,  he  was  thinking. 
As  he  watched  the  langouste  groping  about  as  if  in  dark- 
ness, he  began  to  think  of  the  glowing  miner's  lamp  his 
father  had  worn  strapped  upon  his  brow.  Feeling  about 
in  the  dark  and  choking  to  death  underground,  he  was 
thinking  impatiently.  I  might  have  been  anybody's  son. 
The  strong  shelly  odor  of  the  langouste  was  seasoning  the 
air. 

"I've  got  on  very  well  without  you,"  he  was  thinking 

43 


Rest  Cure 

bitterly.  From  his  wife's  face  he  gathered  that  he  had 
spoken  aloud.  The  visiting  gentleman  looked  into  the 
depths  of  his  glass  of  champagne. 

"Don't  misunderstand  me,"  said  the  guest  with  a  for- 
bearing smile.  "I'm  quite  aware  of  the  fact  that,  long 
before  you  met  me,  you  had  one  of  the  greatest  publics 
and  followings  of  any  living  writer — " 

The  invalid  looked  in  bewilderment  at  his  wife's  face 
and  at  the  face  of  the  visiting  man.  If  they  scold  me,  he 
thought,  I  am  going  to  cry.  He  felt  his  underlip  quivering. 
Scold  me!  he  thought  suddenly  in  indignation.  A  man 
with  a  beard!  His  hand  fled  to  his  chin  for  confirmation. 
A  man  with  a  beard,  he  thought  with  a  cunning  evil  gleam 
narrowing  his  eye. 

"You  haven't  answered  my  question,"  he  said  aggres- 
sively to  the  visitor.  "You  haven't  answered  it  yet,  have 
you?" 

His  hand  had  fallen  against  the  hard  brittle  armor  of 
the  langouste's  hide.  There  were  the  eyes  raised  to  his 
and  the  canny  feelers  lifted.  His  fingers  closed  for  com- 
fort about  the  langoustis  unwieldy  paw.  Father,  he  said 
in  his  heart,  father,  help  me.  Father,  father,  he  said,  I 
don't  want  to  die. 


44 


PENTHOUSE 
by 

Raymond  M.  Weaver 


RAYMOND  WEAVER  is  Assistant  Professor  of  English  at 
Columbia  University  in  New  York,  where  he  has  devoted 
most  of  his  study  to  classical  antiquity  and  the  so-called 
"renaissance"  in  Italy.  Besides  critical  and  biographical 
articles,  he  has  published  a  life  of  Herman  Melville,  and  a 
novel,  Black  Valley,  of  Japan,  where  Mr.  Weaver  lived  for 
three  years.  He  was  born  in  1888. 


PENTHOUSE 

I 

A  EX  and  I  got  off  the  bus  at  Fiftieth  Street  and 
crossed  over,  along  the  shadow  of  the  Cathedral, 
towards  Madison  Avenue.  For  some  reason  of  his 
own  that  I  had  not  particularly  worried  to  figure  out, 
Niles  never  invited  Alex  to  come  to  see  him  without  first 
booking  me  as  a  fourth  of  the  party:  a  kind  of  chaperon 
to  the  Trinity,  Suzanne  used  to  say.  And  if  Alex  was  not 
free,  or  indisposed  for  reasons  of  his  own,  there  was  no 
party.  This  chaperonage  was  no  hardship  to  me,  for  I 
had  come  to  be  devoted  to  all  three  of  them;  and  when  so 
together,  they  struck  sparks  and  fire  as  never  in  a  larger 
company.  Then,  as  at  no  other  time,  their  barriers  were 
lowered,  and  with  frequent  brilliance,  they  talked  almost 
exclusively  about  themselves. 

On  this  particular  afternoon,  as  if  from  habit,  Alex 
stopped  to  pick  me  up  on  the  way  down.  And  as  usual  he 
had  swung  at  once  into  the  topic  that  seemed  never  to  lose 
its  freshness  and  mystery  to  him:  Niles'  sudden  and  un- 
announced marriage  to  Suzanne,  and  the  ensuing  three 
years  of  apparent  perfection  of  happiness. 

"I  suppose  there's  no  reason  on  either  side  of  Hell  why 
they  shouldn't  be  happy,"  Alex  had  gone  on  to  say  for  yet 
another  time;  "and  if  none  but  the  rich  deserve  the  fair, 
they  have  got  their  full  deserts.  Even  Suzanne  can  strug- 
gle along  rather  comfortably  on  Niles'  income.  And  she  is, 
moreover,  an  art-object  worth  an  expensive  housing.  But 
— really! — and  after  all!"  And  he  dwindled  into  dots  and 
dashes. 

"Well,  and  why  not?"    I  asked.    For  there  would  have 

Published  by  permission  of  the  author. 

47 


Penthouse 

been  no  conversation  had  I  agreed  with  him.  "It  seems  to 
me  all  very  wonderful.  Blue  Beard  and  the  Happy 
Prince—" 

"To  Hell  with  faery  tales!  You  know  Niles  as  well  as  I 
do.  He's  without  doubts  and  without  scruples.  He  always 
seems  to  have  known  precisely  what  he  wanted  to  get  out 
of  this  world, — and  with  a  cool  eye  coolly  resolved  to  see 
that  he  gets  it,  and  in  solid  reality.  And  invariably  he 
does.  Below  the  disarming  surface  of  that  'sweetness' 
and  *  charm'  of  his — lucidity  and  ice! — And  that  he  should 
be  married  to  Suzanne!  I  tell  you  it  doesn't  make  sense! 
Him,  listening  adoringly  to  her  brainless  bilge — her 
'  poems9!  O  Holy  Jesus! — on  'Lilting  Love  and  passion's 
red  gardenia' — you've  heard  them,  my  God! — Him,  see- 
ing 'abstract  plastic  genius'  in  the  'transmigratory  soul 
portraits'  that  she  slaps  together  out  of  plaster  and  soap 
and  shredded  wheat!  You've  seen  him  smile  sweetly,  and 
without  one  apparent  symptom  of  nausea,  through  her 
tirades  on  the  'anima'  and  the  'animus'  and — what  does 
she  call  it? — 'the  ghost-being  of  the  double  serpentine 
coil.'  And  the  cases  of  first-rate  Scotch  that  he  pours 
down  the  stinking  maws  of  the  Gurus  and  the  naturals 
and  the  moth-eaten  that  Suzanne  keeps  dredging  up  from 
God  knows  where!  You  remember  that  old  girl  at  Su- 
zanne's last  farewell  dinner  party? — the  one  that  ran  her 
salad  fork  through  her  hair  and  talked  about  'in  senso 
mistico9!  Hell,  what's  the  use!  Undoubtedly  I'm — but  it 
doesn't  matter.  I  like  Niles, — and  I  like  Suzanne.  Hell, 
everybody  knows  it!" 

Alex  always  succeeded  in  working  himself  up  to  this 
recantation  of  all  venom  by  the  time  the  bus  stopped 
before  the  Cathedral. 

"I  wonder  where  Suzanne  is  at  this  instant,"  Alex  said 
laughingly  as  we  walked  along.  "I  don't  know  precisely 
what  time  it  is  in  Thibet,  but  I  doubt  if  she  is  lunching 
with  the  Grand  Llama.  Maybe  she's  murmuring  Um  to 

48 


Raymond  M.  Weaver 

her  own  Himalaya,  or  maybe  she's  airing  herself  by  a 
levitation  over  Ararat." 

As  we  neared  the  entrance,  Alex  growled  half  under  his 
breath:  "Announce  us  to  that  damned  officious  door- 
man." 

Silence  in  the  elevator  up  the  twelve  flights  to  Niles' 
apartment  on  the  roof.  The  first  time  I  went  calling  with 
Alex  he  had  elaborately  denounced  the  impropriety  of 
ever  uttering  a  word  in  an  elevator. 

In  the  music-room,  a  Duo-Art  grand  piano  was  in  the 
midst  of  the  Romance  of  Chopin's  Concerto  in  E-minor; 
and  beyond  the  French  windows,  reclining  under  the  clear 
June  sky,  and  between  hedges  of  Irish  juniper  and  flower- 
ing mountain  laurel,  Niles  Kley  gazed  out  between  the 
Cathedral  spires. 

Alex's  sensibilities — especially  to  odors  and  sounds — 
were  as  acute  as  those  imputed  to  certain  insects  and 
quadrupeds.  Music  and  perfume  seemed  to  provoke  in 
him  the  smoulderings  of  an  enraged  and  incandescent 
fascination.  He  paused  by  the  piano  and  looked  out  at 
Niles. 

"Let's  not  violate  his  most  austere  devotions,"  Alex 
said  in  a  clipped  tight-throated  whisper. 

But  Niles  had  already  heard  us  enter.  Rising  his  full 
height,  and  with  a  Roman  salute  and  'a  glitter  of  teeth, 
he  hailed  us  out  into  the  open. 

"It  lacks  only  Suzanne  to  be  perfect,"  he  said  with 
resonant  warmth.  "But  she  is  really  here,  no  matter.  You 
and  Malcolm  indulge  me  in  my  private  assurances;  so  I 
have  told  Hyacinthe  to  lay  the  table  for  four." 

With  ostentatious  self-absorption  Alex  played  a  phan- 
tom smile  about  his  lips  and  eyes  as  he  uncoiled  the  sprout 
of  a  giant  fern  and  declaimed  softly:  "And  there  is  pansies. 
That's  for  thoughts.  But  you  must  wear  your  tuberoses 
and  your  Parma  violets  with  a  difference." 

"You  must  admit,  Alex,  that  he  really  does,"  Niles 

49 


Penthouse 

answered  laughing.    "He's  got  used  to  it  and  even  seems 
to  like  it." 

The  key  to  this  cryptic  exchange  of  ideas  was  the  butler 
with  the  name  of  Hyacinthe,  alias  Peter  Merdesen. 
Suzanne's  butlers  came  and  went  in  multiple  succession, 
and  Hyacinthe's  tenure  at  the  beginning  had  threatened 
to  be  of  the  briefest,  and  all  over  an  accident  of  nomen- 
clature. "But  I  could  never  bring  myself  to  repeat  your 
name  in  public,"  Suzanne  had  protested  at  their  first  inter- 
view; "and  if  you  should  enter  my  mind  when  I  was 
thinking  in  French — !"  Suzanne  had  recounted  it  all  to 
Niles  and  Alex  and  me.  The  poor  man's  face  had  gathered 
even  more  complexion.  "O  sanguine  flower  inscribed  with 
woe":  the  Miltonic  line  had  flashed  into  her  mind  as  her 
eyes  had  rested  in  questioning  sympathy  upon  his  violet 
and  troubled  face,  and  to  him,  in  triumphant  illumination 
she  had  exclaimed:  "I  have  it!  'O  sanguined  flower  in- 
scribed with  woe',  your  name  is  emblazoned  for  me  on 
your  countenance!  Your  true  name  is  Hyacinthe." — 
"But  it  is  Merdesen,  Madame, — Merdesen — "  Suzanne 
had  cut  him  short.  "Hyacinthe,  please! — spare  me.  You 
have  rebaptized  yourself  in  your  own  blood.  Consumma- 
tum  est.  So  now,  Hyacinthe — ." 

Hyacinthe's  stalwart  bulk  approached  with  cocktails. 

Alex  winked  and  raised  his  glass  ironically  "to  Su- 
zanne" and  the  ritual  of  the  afternoon  was  begun. 

"With  us  four,  as  usual,"  Niles  said,  "I  can  relax  into 
being  myself,  and  laugh  at  Alex's  morbidities." 

From  this  the  conversation  took  its  invariable  shift  to 
Suzanne.  Niles  had  the  evening  before  telephoned  to  her 
in  Budapest.  In  her  roadster  she  had  crossed  the  Alps, 
fled  through  Austria,  and  was  headed  for  the  Carpathians 
and  an  indefinite  seclusion  in  an  abandoned  Mohammedan 
mosque  on  the  outskirts  of  some  unpronounceable  place 
in  Poland.  Thence,  by  widening  digressions,  a  full  circle 
was  swung  back  again  to  Suzanne,  and  Alex  and  Niles. 

SO 


Raymond  M.  Weaver 

"You  know,"  Niles  said,  "most  of  the  men  that  I  have 
the  closest  dealings  with  down  town  are,  I  suppose,  what 
would  be  rated  as  enviably  successful.  But  look  at  them! 
When  I  do  I  am  glad  that  Suzanne  has  sustained  my  cour- 
age to  cross  over  to  the  other  side.  Each  year  they  are  a 
million  or  so  older  and  flabbier  and  deader  and  deadlier: 
rank  unburiable  corpses.  Theirs  is  at  once  a  pathetic  and 
an  evil  failure.  To  be  swift  fated  is  not  always  to  be  woe- 
ful beyond  all.  For  youth — " 

"To  sentiment,"  Alex  said,  raising  Suzanne's  empty 
glass,  "and  another  round  of  failures  to  Niles." 

"No,  Alex,"  Niles  said;  "sentiment  and  success  indeed, 
to  all  four  of  us."  He  smiled  across  the  table  to  Suzanne's 
vacant  chair.  "Isn't  she  this  afternoon  more  radiant  than 
ever  before!  If  it  were  possible,  a  kind  of  utter  frustration 
transfigured." 

"Don't  you  see,  Niles,"  Alex  said,  "while  you  are 
whiling  away  your  semi-lucid  intervals  of  'failure'  laugh- 
ing at  what  you  call  so  jauntily  my  'morbidities,'  Suzanne 
is  sending  echoes  of  ha-ha  up  and  down  the  Polish  Corridor, 
laughing  at  all  of  us — and  at  you  in  particular.  But  seri- 
ously— almost  too  damned  seriously  for  this  communion 
board  of  self-ostentation — you  seem  to  me,  Niles,  the  one 
and  only  really  and  miraculously  fortunate  man  I've  ever 
known.  This  is  an  offence  few  would  be  able  to  forgive  in 
you.  But  the  rot  you  talk  on  occasion — especially  the 
cosy  peeps  you  give  me  into  that  central  refrigerating 
valve  you  point  to  as  your  heart — they  give  me  a  smart 
ache  in  the  gut.  Why  can't  you  sit  tranquil  in  your  Eden, 
under  the  showers  of  Providence  that  have  so  generously 
sprinkled  you,  without  sneaking  in  a  few  little  badly 
painted  snakes  and  then  thinking  to  consternate  your 
friends  at  your  high-minded  daring  in  wrestling  with  a 
whole  zoo  of  boa  constrictors.  Your  cool  brazen  condescen- 
sion to  gamble  in  fortunes  with  Wall  Street  'failures': 
you,  who  have  already  'f ailed '  to  the  debasement  of  a 


Penthouse 

mere  roof  on  the  East  Side — not  to  specify  your  other 
fiascos.  Why  don't  you  quit  this  back  sliding  into  corrupt- 
ible treasure?  What  with  Suzanne,  and  your  sensitive 
soul,  and  the  Vale  of  Cashmir — " 

"Alex,"  Niles  said,  "you're  romantic  with  a  guilty  con- 
science. You  are  afraid  to  love  anything — especially 
yourself.  You  simply  cannot  conceive  the  possibility  of 
the  kind  of  love  between  Suzanne  and  me — though  I  have 
no  doubt  that  you've  got  it  neatly  lettered  and  dia- 
grammed. And  Suzanne's  being  away  since  our  marriage 
for  several  months  each  year:  I  can  hear  you  and  the  world 
at  large  concluding  from  that  fact  that  a  perfect  love  could 
dispense  with  such  interludes.  I'll  grant  you,  that  for 
myself  I  never  would  have  proposed  it.  What  faith  and 
wisdom  I  have  is  Suzanne's.  You  have  heard  her  speak  of 
the  renunciation  that  heightens  love's  glamor.  That,  to  a 
romantic,  must  appear  only  rhetoric  and  self-deception: 
as  if  you  can  never  come  to  think  that  you've  been  in  love 
until  you  wake  up  to  love  among  the  ruins.  What  Suzanne 
says  is  true.  And  it  is  true,  too,  that  I  might  retire  to- 
morrow. But  I  shall  not.  That  again  would  be  playing  the 
romantic.  You,  of  course,  are  convinced  there  are  truer 
and  simpler  and  more  obvious  reasons.  What  do  you 
think  they  are? — Frankly,  and  without  kid  gloves,  out 
with  them!" 

Niles  smiled  gravely  at  Alex,  waiting. 

This  I  recognized  to  be  my  cue.  For  each  evening  that 
we  spent  together  seemed  to  follow  an  essentially  identical 
pattern.  This  friendship  between  Alex  and  Niles  was  one 
of  the  strangest  I  have  ever  seen.  Patently,  they  were 
devoted  to  each  other,  and  with  what  was  doubtless  the 
most  intimate  approach  to  friendship  in  the  life  of  either. 
Only  between  themselves,  and  in  the  presence  of  me,  were 
they  ever  known,  apparently,  to  sit  and  hold  their  pulses 
and  then  to  discuss  the  symptoms.  In  all  their  other  con- 
tacts outside  of  this  closed  circle  the  reserves  of  each  were 


Raymond  M.  Weaver 

absolute.  And  yet,  once  together,  and  almost  as  if  by 
perversity  and  a  deeply  veiled  mutual  resentment,  they 
began  reaching  out  probes  into  the  quick  of  each  other's 
souls.  And  I  am  sure  that  their  affection  for  me  grew  in 
some  large  part  out  of  my  genuine  interest  in  listening  in 
upon  their  self-exposures  without  any  tragic  concern,  alert 
to  rescue  them  again  to  trivialities  when  poison  and  rapier 
seemed  imminent. 

On  this  evening,  to  the  second  when  I  was  about  to 
interrupt,  the  smothered  buzz  of  the  door  bell  instantane- 
ously diverted  Niles  to  an  outspoken  surprise  at  the 
strangeness  of  the  intrusion. 

We  sat  silent,  listening,  while  Hyacinthe  opened  the 
front  door,  parleyed  there  for  a  moment,  and  in  stately 
silence  presented  Niles  with  a  silver  tray  bearing  a  cable- 
gram. 

"Didn't  I  tell  you  she  was  with  us  all  along?"  Niles 
exclaimed  in  glowing  eagerness.  "Wait  and  hear." 

He  tore  open  the  envelope  and  read. 

I  saw  the  smile  die  from  his  eyes  and  lips,  a  barely 
perceptible  single  twitch  at  the  corner  of  his  mouth,  and 
all  color  die  from  his  face.  An  automobile  horn  tooted  in 
the  street  far  below.  A  faint  breeze  rustled  the  leaves  of 
the  mountain  laurel  outside. 

Alex  rose,  and  standing  beside  Niles  reached  out  his 
hand  towards  the  cablegram. 

"Give  it  to  me,"  he  said,  as  if  in  anger. 

With  a  curious  kind  of  silent  and  angular  precision, 
Niles  rose,  and  with  his  eyes  fixed  upon  Alex's,  handed  him 
the  message. 

It  seemed  that  suddenly,  and  without  warning,  I  had 
been  plunged  into  some  grotesque  nightmare  being  en- 
acted by  automatons. 

Niles  walked  around  the  table  to  Suzanne's  empty 
place,  and  bent  his  white  lips  over  as  if  to  kiss  her  hair. 

And  still  nobody  said  anything. 

53 


Penthouse 

Alex  read,  and  turning  towards  Niles  encircled  him  with 
one  arm.  Niles  recoiled,  as  if  in  infuriated  contempt,  and 
burying  his  face  in  his  hands,  sank  upon  his  knees  before 
Suzanne's  chair,  and  with  his  face  as  if  buried  in  her  lap, 
sobbed  uncontrollably. 

By  that  time  I  had  recovered  myself  sufficiently  to  be 
beside  Alex.  "Of  course,  I  know  it's  Suzanne — but — " 

"Bright  of  you  to  guess  it!"  Alex  snapped  me  short. 
"Killed — But  what's  the  idea  of  standing  around  like 
that!  It's  not  decent  for  us  to  be  here  now.  Come,  let's 
get  out." 

"But — "  This  manly  shame  of  Alex's — 

Before  I  could  finish  even  my  thought,  Alex  had  re- 
peated his  command  that  we  leave. 

In  the  doorway  we  met  Hyacinthe  bearing  in  the  des- 
sert. 

"To  Hell  with  you,  tool"  Alex  exclaimed.  "Ask  no 
questions,  but,  God  damn  you,  keep  out  of  this  room  till 
you're  called!" 

Once  out  of  the  elevator  and  on  the  street,  Alex  said: 
"Well,  Malcolm,  that  exhausts  the  conversation  for  this 
afternoon.  So  let's  part  here.  I'm  walking  home.  I  want 
to  get  drunk — and  I  want  to  get  drunk  alone." 

Little  did  I  then  guess  that  the  ghastliness  of  the  day 
was  then  but  half  fulfilled. 

Still  dazed,  I  stood  before  the  entrance  of  Niles'  apart- 
ment house,  watching  Alex  walk  up  Madison  Avenue  until 
he  disappeared.  Had  I  but  known  that  I  would  never  see 
him  again! — That  night  he  would  put  a  bullet  in  his  head. 

II 

This  double  impact  with  death,  and  with  death  so  wan- 
ton, and  unnecessary,  and  insanely  cruel,  engulfed  me  in  a 
turmoil  of  anxiety  and  guilt.  I  accused  myself,  of  course, 
for  letting  Alex  go  off  as  he  had,  in  that  curious  mood, 
alone;  for  leaving  Niles  so  solitary  in  his  grief,  fearful,  with 

54 


Raymond  M.  Weaver 

growing  anxiety,  of  some  last  hideous  and  sudden  disaster 
to  him.  The  following  afternoon,  I  called  at  Niies'  apart- 
ment. My  name  was  telephoned  up  to  the  twelfth  floor, 
to  bring  back  the  curt  announcement:  "Not  at  home." 
Confident  that  this  was  a  lie,  I  entered  the  first  telephone 
booth,  knowing  that  Hyacinthe  would  answer,  and  that  at 
worst  I  could  make  an  indirect  contact. 

Hyacinthe  did  answer,  and  with  his  characteristic  im- 
perturbability stated:  "Sorry,  Sir,  but  Mr.  Kley  is  at 
business  as  usual." 

"Impossible,  Hyacinthe!"  I  protested,  identifying  my- 
self and  trying  to  explain  my  concern.  "How  does  he 
seem? — And  don't  you  think  he  ought  to  have  someone 
there  with  him,  especially  of  evenings?" 

Hyacinthe  assured  me  Niles  was  indeed  at  business, 
that  there  were  no  reports  to  be  made  of  Niles'  behavior, 
that  Niles  had  left  instructions  that  he  was  at  home  to 
none. 

Futile  as  it  seemed,  I  did  succeed  in  extracting  from 
Hyacinthe  the  promise  that  he  would  warn  me  promptly 
the  moment  that  Niles  relented  his  prohibition  against  all 
callers,  or  seemed  in  any  way  in  need  of  help. 

If  Suzanne's  marriage  had  been  a  choice  morsel  for 
speculation  and  amateur  prophecy,  her  sudden  death  was 
an  even  more  exhaustless  and  delectable  item.  Followed 
immediately,  as  it  had  been,  by  Alex's  suicide,  there  was  a 
renaissance  of  wonder  and  imagination  in  every  congrega- 
tion of  her  friends  I  entered.  Only  on  one  single  point, 
however,  was  opinion  unanimous:  that  Alex's  had  been 
a  life  embittered  by  a  hopeless  passion  for  Suzanne — a 
poignant  agony  during  her  life,  but  with  her  destruction  an 
intolerable  vacancy.  On  the  surface  of  things,  and  by  all 
the  orthodox  superstitions  that  enshroud  the  mysteries 
of  the  heart,  this  neat  explanation  was  plausible  enough. 
Though  I  had  no  very  direct  and  cogent  evidence  to  offer 
even  to  myself  in  refutation,  it  was  my  deepest  conviction 

55 


Penthouse 

nevertheless  that  it  was  false.  But  I  soon  learned  the  folly 
of  betraying  any  intimation  of  my  doubt. 

"Angel  child,"  Eva  Taglibue  had  boomed  forth  to  me 
in  her  deepest  contralto,  "if  not  for  love  of  Suzanne,  was 
it  for  a  white  and  drifted  passion  for  your  own  seraphic 
innocence? — Get  me  another  cocktail,  Malcolm,  and  tell 
me  the  latest  bulletin  of  Niles." 

Miles! 

Unhampered  by  any  first  hand  information,  Niles' 
friends  and  acquaintances  had  haloed  him  with  every 
glamor  of  romance,  and  bestowed  upon  him  a  kind  of 
apotheosis.  Transfigured  into  the  mirror  of  husbands 
wedded  and  bereft,  a  perfect  blend  of  all  manly  strength 
and  manly  tenderness,  grief  stricken,  his  very  name  be- 
came at  once  a  benediction  and  an  aphrodisiac.  The 
Spartan  stoicism  with  which  he  shielded  from  impious 
eyes  the  pageant  of  his  bleeding  heart!  Daily,  with  in- 
vulnerable facade,  he  crossed  the  threshold  of  the  sanctu- 
ary of  his  sorrow,  and  faced  the  world  of  men;  but  within 
that  sanctuary,  no  mortal  was  privileged  to  tread. 

Cut  off  from  all  direct  communication  with  Niles,  but 
lonely  to  see  him,  I  had  written  him,  but  without  provok- 
ing a  syllable  in  reply;  again  I  had  telephoned  Hyacinthe, 
to  meet  stolid  and  loyal  evasion;  once  again  I  had  even 
tried  to  call,  but  again  Hyacinthe  had  effectively  barred 
the  way.  Months  passed,  but  still  I  nursed  the  hope  that 
as  the  keenest  edge  of  Niles'  sorrow  was  subtly  corroded 
by  time,  he  would  come  to  remember  me,  and  let  me  see 
him  as  before. 

In  the  early  autumn,  and  to  have  my  first  immediate 
delight  quelled  to  alarm,  Hyacinthe  telephoned  me  one 
morning,  his  voice  freighted  with  doom:  "I  must  see  you, 
Sir,"  he  said.  "It  is  serious;  too  serious  for  any  but  his 
closest  living  friend  to  know."  And  this  was  all  he  would 
say.  Further  revelations  he  reserved  for  the  privacy  of 
bolted  doors. 

56 


Raymond  M.   Weaver 

"Tell  me,  Hyacinthe,  please,  at  once — what  is  it, 
Hyacinthe?"  I  began  before  he  was  fairly  in  my  rooms. 

He  eyed  me  sedately,  unperturbed  by  my  haste. 

Finally:  "I  beg  your  pardon,  Sir,  but  the  Sacrament  of 
Baptism  and  the  rights  of  legitimate  birth — " 

"Yes,  yes,  forgive  me.  It's — eh?" 

"I'd  like  to  be  thought  of  as  Merdesen,  Sir,  if  you  don't 
mind." 

"Of  course.   Now,  Merdesen — " 

"It's  a  painful  fact,  and  I've  debated  several  months 
before  telling  it,  and  I  mean  no  slander  in  saying  it,  and 
I've  never  said  it  before,  but  Mr.  Kley  is  out  of  his  mind." 

"Out  of  his  mind,  Merdesen!  It  can't  be,  Merdesen! 
He's  been  going  to  business  daily,  hasn't  he? — and  the  one 
thing  that  everybody  who  sees  him  says — " 

"I've  never  seen  him  at  business,  Sir,  so  about  that  I 
have  no  convictions.  It's  when  he's  not  at  business  that 
it's  only  me  who  sees  him,  Sir — so  I'm  the  only  person  who 
can  say  what  I  might  think  about  that." 

"Please  go  on,  Merdesen!  When  he  comes  home — ?" 

"I  don't  know  if  you  are  one  of  those,  Sir,  who  believes 
in  ghosts — " 

"Keep  your  ghost  stories  for  later,  Merdesen. — When 
Mr.  Kley  gets  home — ?" 

"I'm  coming  to  that,  Sir.  But  first  I  must  say  that  I 
have  no  faith  in  ghosts  myself.  And  when  those  about  me 
begin  behaving  as  if  they  were  seeing  them,  I  find  myself 
being  not  quite  comfortable  either  about  myself  or  them. 
For  either  I  have  lost  control  of  my  own  reason,  or  she 
that  was  Mrs.  Kley  is  walking,  or  Mr.  Kley  is  clean  out  of 
his  head.  You  will  understand  that  as  butler,  Sir,  I  have 
occasion  to  overhear  much.  And  of  evenings,  after 
Mr.  Kley  has  unlatched  his  own  front  door,  and  almost 
before  he  is  well  in  his  apartment,  he  calls  out  the  first 
name  of  the  late  Mrs.  Kley,  and  rushes  into  what  used  to 
be  her  room,  and  laughs,  and  talks,  and  rings  for  me  to 

57 


Penthouse 

bring  in  a  vase  for  the  flowers  for  Madame.  Is  that 
natural,  Sir? — And  he  sends  packages  to  her — which 
make  me  feel  dishonest  and  confused  to  accept.  All  sorts 
of  other  things  like  that,  Sir.  And  ever  since  that  time 
when  you  three  gentlemen  dined  at  four  places,  Mr.  Kley 
has  sat  alone  at  a  table  set  for  two — and  once  or  twice,  Sir, 
even  for  three.  And  there  are  times  when  he  sits  there  by 
himself  and  talks  more  than  he  eats.  Not  so  long  ago,  as  I 
entered  with  the  cheese,  he  turned  to  me  and  asked  me 
abruptly,  but  with  great  earnestness:  'Hyacinthe,  what  do 
you  think  of  all  this?  I  suppose  that  you've  decided  quite 
positively  that  I'm  lunatic,  haven't  you,  Hyacinthe?'  " 

He  swallowed  with  great  effort. 

"What  did  you  answer,  Merdesen?" 

"It  was  an  embarrassing  question,  Sir." 

"Granted.  But  what  did  you  say?" 

"I  waited  for  some  further  comment  from  Mr.  Kley, 
Sir." 

"And—?" 

"He  looked  up  as  if  he  felt  sorry  for  me,  and  rested  his 
eyes  on  me  rather  pathetically  for  a  moment — and  then 
merely  smiled. — That's  the  way  he  is,  Sir.  And  what 
makes  it  all  the  more  the  pity  is,  except  for  his  behavior 
that  I've  said,  and  his  writing  much  of  evenings  at  the 
desk  of  her  that  was  Mrs.  Kley,  he's  in  every  way  him- 
self." 

"You're  all  on  the  wrong  track,  Merdesen.  What  you're 
calling  madness — " 

"I  should  be  glad  to  think  you  were  right,  Sir.  But  if 
you  had  once  seen  for  yourself — " 

"Haven't  I  tried  to,  Merdesen?  And  who  but  yourself 
has  seen  to  it  very  particularly  that  I  did  not  get  in?" 

"Your  pardon,  Sir.  That  was  then.  But  now — y 

"This  very  evening,"  I  exclaimed.  And  then  in  a  burst 
of  gratitude  and  enthusiasm  that  heightened  Merdesen's 
complexion,  I  grasped  his  hand. 

58 


Raymond  M.  Weaver 

III 

That  night  Hyacinthe  was  as  good  as  his  word.  With  a 
perfection  of  sardonic  guile  he  admitted  me  beyond  the 
doorman,  and  into  the  entrance  of  the  apartment  as  if  I 
were  the  merest  casual  uninvited  stranger.  Parading 
ahead  of  me,  Hyacinthe  stood  at  attention  on  the  threshold 
of  the  music  room,  and  like  any  major  domo  of  a  court 
reception,  pealed  forth  my  name. 

In  an  instant  all  my  misgivings  were  allayed.  Niles 
greeted  me  with  the  warmest  cordiality,  as  if  indeed  there 
had  been  no  upheaval  in  his  life,  no  interruption  to  our 
friendship,  and  as  if  he  had  been  sitting  in  eager  expecta- 
tion of  my  arrival. 

"How  did  you  know  that  I  was  coming  tonight?"  I 
asked. 

"Dear  old  transparent  and  invariable  Malcolm! — Ex- 
pect you  tonight?  You  are  the  single  person  that  Suzanne 
and  I  have  never  doubted.  But  don't  behave  as  if  you  had 
broken  in  upon  a  tete-d-tete.  Come — join  us." 

Niles  led  me  out  upon  the  roof. 

In  the  late  twilight,  and  in  the  midst  of  a  glimmering 
space  of  huge  copper-gold  chrysanthemums,  Niles  had 
been  lingering  at  table.  I  was  immediately  struck  by  the 
occasion  of  Hyacinthe's  alarm:  Niles  had  not  dined  alone. 
Hyacinthe  was  instructed  to  bring  me  a  third  chair. 

I  began  without  preamble. 

"See  here,  Niles,"  I  said,  "you've  got  to  stop  this  sort 
of  thing.  It's  morbid.  Cutting  yourself  off  from  all  normal 
human  contacts — going  to  business  each  day  with  the 
edge  and  warmth  of  a  liquid  air  icicle — and  coming  home 
each  evening  to  a  solitary  performance  like  this.  Some- 
body's got  to  say  it  to  you — so  there  it  is.  I  don't  want  to 
mess  around  in  your  private  affairs — " 

"You  couldn't,  Malcolm,"  he  said  in  cool  contempt; 
"you  don't  know  enough  about  them. — I'm  sorry  to  have 

59 


Penthouse 

said  that,  of  course,  and  besides  it's  untrue  after  all. 
And  besides,  you  have,  for  once,  seen  me  stripped  down  to 
raw  emotion,  naked  and  ashamed.  So  try  to  pretend 
Suzanne's  chair  was  never  there,  if  it  offends  you." 

" That's  the  trouble,  Niles — always  to  pretend!  Just 
for  once,  the  novelty  to  me  of  the  courage  of  a  little  truth ! " 

Silently  his  wide  eyes  were  defensively  upon  me,  waiting 
for  me  to  proceed.  It  hurt  me  to  wound  him.  But  the 
circumstances  were  desperate,  and  for  once  I  had  dared 
to  make  the  plunge.  And  now  it  was  no  longer  possible 
for  me  to  bob  smilingly  to  the  surface,  toss  the  water  from 
my  hair,  and  call  across  to  him  as  if  both  of  us,  afraid  of 
the  water,  needed  assurance  we  were  safe  within  the 
ropes. 

"While  you've  been  shut  up  here,  I've  seen  a  lot  of 
people;  and  everybody  that  knows  you,  and  who  knew 
Alex  and  Suzanne — " 

I  wished  he  would  lose  his  temper — do  anything  to 
relieve  me  of  the  cruelty  of  going  on.  The  most  offensive 
way,  I  felt,  would  be  the  most  summary  and  downright 
and  clean.  I  started  again,  plunging  more  wildly.  Any- 
thing to  shatter  that  fagade! 

"Everywhere  I  go,  you  should  hear  how  they  are  all 
saying  how  ideally  married  you  and  Suzanne  were;  how, 
but  for  you,  Alex  would  not  have  killed  himself,  but  might 
instead  have  married  her  himself  just  as  happily  as  you 
did."  . 

It  was  villainous  to  say  this  to  him,  I  knew.  Not  a 
sound  from  him.  In  the  growing  darkness  I  could  dis- 
tinguish only  a  pale  slit  oval  for  his  face. 

"This  is  the  point,  Niles.  I  know  as  well  as  you  do  that 
all  this  gossip  is  nonsense.  I  don't  of  course  know  why 
Alex  killed  himself — but  it  doesn't  seem  to  me  that  it  was 
out  of  frustrated  love  for  Suzanne.  But  she  is  dead,  Niles. 
Alex  is  dead,  and  Suzanne  is  dead  too.  It's  terrible,  Niles, 
I  know  it.  But  to  shut  yourself  up  this  way,  with  these 

60 


Raymond  M.  Weaver 

lugubrious  dinner  parties,  with  the  mockery  of  all  this 
pretence — " 

"Shut  up,  God  damn  you!  Close  that  dirty,  lying,  blas- 
phemous mouth  of  yours,  or  I'll — I'll — " 

His  breath  quivered,  panting  into  silence,  and  in  the 
darkness  the  pale  luminosity  of  his  hands  blotted  out  his 
face. 

"I'm  sorry,  Malcolm,"  he  said  finally,  stemming  the 
backwash  of  receding  rage.  "And  yet" — there  was  a  new 
vibrance  in  his  voice,  as  if  the  whole  lashing  tide  had 
turned  to  boil  again  upon  him,  "whose  business  is  it  whom 
Alex  loved? — sweet  God,  the  inalienable  solitude  of  each 
of  us!  And  those  stinking,  grinning  jackals,  with  the  heat, 
the  hysteria,  the  gymnastics  of  their  little  recesses  of 
passion,  befouling  Alex's  name,  or  Suzanne's,  and  trying 
to  mutilate  all  love  to  their  pasture!  The  very  blood  of 
Alex  is  scarlet  upon  them.  And  they  lust  that  I  do  as  Alex 
did  to  seal  and  authenticate  my  love  for  Suzanne!" 

He  paused,  struggling  to  master  himself. 

When  he  spoke  again,  his  voice  seemed  to  come  from  a 
great  distance. 

"Poor  dead  Alex,"  he  said.  "And  yet  their  myths  about 
him  taint  his  memory  less  than  the  truth  about  him  would. 
And  you,  Malcolm,  if  you  had  been  only  a  little  more,  or 
a  little  less  blind !  I  do  not  say  this  to  pain  you,  you  must 
believe  me.  But,  Malcolm,  hadn't  you  the  eyes  to  see 
that  Suzanne  loved  Alex  when  some  years  ago  they  first 
met?  Suzanne  herself  has  said  so  much  to  me.  Did  it  mean 
nothing  to  you  that  Alex  did  all  he  could  to  avoid  Suzanne 
until  she  was  safely  married  to  me  ? — were  you  not  aware 
of  his  unaccountable  resentment  of  me,  both  before  and 
after  I  came  to  love  Suzanne? — and  his  tortured  intimacy 
with  each  of  us  after  Suzanne  and  I  were  rated  by  the  world 
as  man  and  wife?  Did  all  this  mean  nothing  to  you? — 
What  happened  in  his  heart  the  night  he  killed  himself, 
that  we  shall  never  know.  But  in  imagination  I  have 

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Penthouse 

again  and  again  tried  to  follow  in  his  footsteps  as  he  walked 
off  alone  that  afternoon.  The  hideous  suddenness  of  that 
cablegram — my  own  brutal  rebuff  of  his  attempt  at  sym- 
pathy— my  burst  of  naked  grief:  how  profoundly  these 
could  tear  up  one  so  haunted  and  so  ingrown  as  himself! 
Then  home,  alone,  and  to  get  drunk — and  with  each  drink 
feeling  sorrier  and  sorrier  for  me,  and  Suzanne,  and  sorriest 
for  himself,  unloving  and  unloved.  Till,  melted  to  an 
orgy  of  self  pity,  and  self  loathing — " 

Abruptly  he  paused,  as  if  in  horrified  expectation. 
When  he  continued  his  voice  had  again  receded. 

"The  blind,  stupid  malice  of  the  world!  Let  them  say 
he  loved  Suzanne.  You  are  right,  Malcolm — in  their  sense 
he  certainly  did  not.  Nor  in  my  sense,  either.  In  their 
sense,  love  to  him  was  a  grossness  and  a  betrayal  that  he 
feared  would  leave  his  heart  revolted  and  even  more 
desolate.  It  was  in  friendship  rather  than  in  love  that  he 
more  than  half  hoped  to  quench  the  aching  irony  of  his 
solitude.  But  he  never  dared  frankly  to  look  into  the  eyes 
of  the  fact  that  this  friendship  which  he  craved  was  really 
but  a  disguised  love — and  a  love  with  no  possible  fulfill- 
ment but  in  bitterness  and  shame.  His  murdered  halves, 
lacerated  between  themselves — my  God,  Malcolm,  did 
you  never  suspect  that  it  was  you  that  Suzanne  hoped 
might  rescue  him  from  his  guilt  and  fears?  You  are  not  to 
blame  for  the  promiscuous  clarity  of  your  affections,  Mal- 
colm. Poor  dead  Alex! — And  a  grave,  they  say,  is  a  fine 
and  private  place/' 

"But  do  you  mean,  Niles — ,"  I  began,  in  dazed  turmoil. 

"I  mean  what  I  say,"  he  interrupted.  "That  it  is  obtuse 
and  misguided  insight  on  your  part  to  try  to  persuade  me 
that  it  is  the  part  of  humanity  and  wisdom  to  go  back 
among  vindictive  sentimentalists  that  draw  such  sweet 
solace  from  the  hope  that  love  will  crush  me  to  death  as  its 
next  victim,  but  with  an  agony  more  exquisitely  pro- 
longed than  was  Alex's.  There  I  would  be  only  a  bored 

62 


Raymond  M.  Weaver 

alien.  Am  I  so  ' morbid'  in  this  isolation?  Each  day  I 
have  many  exciting  contacts,  vividly  competitive,  imper- 
sonal— an  absorbing  game.  Then  I  come  home  here  to 
Suzanne.  Do  you  begrudge  me  that  happiness,  Malcolm? 
And  does  it  seem  to  you  so  terribly  'unnatural'  that  in  my 
love  for  Suzanne  I  might  continue  to  grow,  and  prosper, 
and  exult?  Are  even  you  blind  to  the  fullness  and  glamor 
and  truth  potential  in  my  love  for  Suzanne?" 

Though  he  paused,  I  dared  not  answer. 

"You  were  here,  Malcolm,  when  I  first  learned  of  the 
crushing  news  of  Suzanne's  death.  It  nearly  felled  me. 
Under  the  initial  impact  of  that,  it  seemed  that  her  mortal 
destruction  had  left  an  aching  void  at  the  very  core  of  the 
universe:  a  void  which,  when  no  longer  filled  by  her  serene 
and  radiant  loveliness  seemed  to  leave  the  world  to  col- 
lapse into  nothingness  upon  itself.  Suzanne  had  always 
encouraged  me  to  the  faith  that  love  is,  in  its  final  mystery, 
a  resonance  from  within,  and  that  all  persons  loved,  at 
best  an  answering  echo  from  without.  Ah,  Malcolm,  this 
resonance,  this  echo,  and  the  mystic  blending  into  one 
perfect  melody  that  love  craves!  And  to  know  that  be- 
tween no  two  living  separate  souls  can  there  ever  be  this 
miracle  of  consummation.  Only  solitude,  and  eternal  dual- 
ity. With  Suzanne's  death,  and  Alex's,  every  resonance 
and  every  answering  echo  seemed  at  first  to  have  forsaken 
me.  And  yet,  it  was  only  in  this  dark  night  of  my  love 
that  the  full  splendor  and  immortality  of  Suzanne  began 
to  gleam  against  the  silent  blackness.  This  little  game  I 
have  been  playing,  this  pretense  you  despise,  this  dining 
alone  in  company — it  was  my  weakness  to  at  first  feel  that 
I  needed  this  to  fortify  my  love.  But  now,  Malcolm,  and 
since  you  desire  it,  I  can  henceforth  dispense  with  that 
too.  Love,  I  now  know,  can  be  stronger  than  the  accidents 
of  life  and  death  besides.  Perfect  love,  I  now  know,  is  the 
fullness  of  joy,  of  life — and  life  with  ever  greater  abun- 
dance. And  death,  I  have  now  through  sorrow  learned, 

63 


Penthouse 

can  destroy  only  what  divides  us.  Grief  now  would  be 
blasphemy.  For  what  have  I  lost  that  is  essential  to  love, 
in  lacking  merely  Suzanne  herself?" 

A  black  pool  of  shadow  descended  upon  the  table  cloth 
opposite  me,  and  the  smothered  sound  of  deeply  indrawn 
breathing.  In  guilt,  and  shame,  and  inexpressible  com- 
passion, I  bent  towards  Niles.  But  before  I  could  touch 
him,  his  teeth  glittering  through  a  radiant  smile,  his  whole 
manner  transformed.  With  that  smile  it  froze  over  me  that 
Niles  was  beyond  the  need  of  friendship. 


PURYEAR'S  HORNPIPE 

by 
Leslie  Dykstra 


LESLIE  DYKSTRA  has  in  her  blood  the  mountain  life  of 
which  she  writes,  for  she  is  descended  from  pioneers  of 
Tazewell  and  Smyth  Counties  near  the  western  end  of  Vir- 
ginia, where  the  state  reaches  into  the  mountains  between 
West  Virginia,  Kentucky,  and  Tennessee.  She  spends  her 
summers  there  and  her  winters  in  Washington,  where  her 
husband  is  a  staff  member  of  the  National  Emergency  Coun- 
cil. She  owns  a  fiddle,  "hand-rived  from  the  heart  of  a 
maple,"  which  was  played  successively  by  her  great-grand- 
father, grandfather,  and  father.  Many  of  her  poems  have 
been  published,  but  Puryear's  Hornpipe  is  her  first  published 
story. 


PURYEAR'S  HORNPIPE 

JUDY  could  hear  the  doves  calling,  and  on  a  sudden 
the  sound  was  Granpy's  fiddle. 
She  darted  around  the  house  and  on  to  the  porch, 
stopping  in  front  of  him  with  eager  demand.    "  Scotched 
me  a  new  jig-step  by  accident,  outen  the  bean  patch!" 

Roused  from  his  memories,  he  was  pointedly  surprised. 

She  made  a  heartsome  picture  for  his  faded  eyes  to 
study.  Her  hair  was  smoothed  back  into  twin  shoulder 
braids  that  held  the  gold  light  of  sun  on  a  brown  leaf. 
Her  eyes  were  gray-hazel,  deep-set  and  pleasant,  and  her 
mouth  seemed,  like  his,  only  wanting  excuse  to  smile. 

44 Hit's  a  pippin;  want  to  see?" 

"Sure-certain,"  he  said  with  fond  interest. 

"I  reaches  straight  up,  hopperin'  high,  and  comes  down 
twisty.  Thisaway,"  she  chirruped  and  made  a  sudden 
leap,  appeared  to  fall,  but  then  righted  herself  with  a  glib 
movement  born  of  mountain  grace,  unmindful  that  her 
apron-slip  threatened  to  fall  off  any  minute.  "Aim  to 
weave  it  three  spots  in  the  hornpipe  figure." 

"Hit's  foretold  kain't  no  other  youngun  out-step  my 
bantling,"  he  said  proudly. 

"Uncle  Steuben  wonders  him  ifn  I  didn't  win  wide 
fame,  come  Festival  time  tomorrow,"  she  owned.  "Gin 
judges  and  Sutherland's  so  minded.  Case-happen  a  medal, 
I'll  pin  it  on  your  put-away  suit,  or  a  green-back  dollar, 
mammy  can  spend." 

"Now  ain't  that  handsome!  .  .  .  and  has  Melia  fixed 
victuals  plentiful  to  last?" 

"Victuals  plentiful  to  stuff  an  army,"  answered  the 

Reprinted  from  Harper's  Magazine,  July  1936,  by  permission  of  the  author 
and  of  the  editors. 

67 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

crisp  voice  of  Judy's  mother  from  behind  her.  She  stood 
on  the  sunken  sill,  drying  her  hands  on  a  starch-wilted 
apron.  "If  two  fried  rooster-birds,  ham-meat,  boiled 
eggs,  strained  greens,  white  bread,  and  new  honey  kain't 
spread  far  enough — "  and  she  broke  off  tartly,  fretted  by 
cooking,  "to  keep  four  folks  alive  over  two  days — I'll 
declare!" 

Melia  was  the  widow  of  Peter's  only  son.  She  was  a 
tall,  comely  person,  with  work-worn  hands,  but  still  un- 
bowed, standing  like  some  town  lady  in  black  silk.  The 
weather-browned  face  might  have  been  called  sharp  from 
its  steadfast  mien  but  for  the  eyes,  deep-set  and  dark, 
that  could  sparkle  with  enjoyment  of  being. 

"Do  for  a  regiment!"  She  leaned  over  and  smoothed 
the  old  man's  long  white  locks  that  the  breeze  had  riffled 
and  took  up  his  fiddle.  "Seems  like  my  conscious  tells 
me  Granpy's  strength  might  fall  short  of  the  journey." 

"Who  you  talkin'  about — me?"  Peter  rose  from  his 
chair  bridling.  "Never  felt  more  able-bodied,"  he  de- 
clared, drawing  himself  up  like  an  old  soldier,  but  Judy 
pulled  him  down  again. 

"Rest  yourself,  Granpy;  take  ye  plenty  of  rest.  Would 
be  nary  a  reason  for  travel  did  you  fail  to  see  me  win 
Puryear  fame."  And  she  turned  to  Melia  with  anxious 
eyes.  "Reckon  he  got  peaked  account'f  no  eggs  for 
breakfast  this  long  while?" 

Peter  snorted  at  such  a  notion.  "  'Twas  no  hardship* 
But  I  hope  they  brought  you  good  barter?" 

"Fowls  earned  fair  exchange,"  Melia  said,  "but  eggs — 
not  powerful.  Mr.  Bonwick,  he  says,  'Hope  these  eggs  air 
fresh.'  'Fresh!'  I  tells  him.  'Why,  Judy  has  been  hand- 
pickin'  these  yer  fresh  eggs  from  under  our  hens  every 
single  blessed  day  for  nigh  on  three  months'  time!'" 

"Got  me  a  blue  store  dress  and  watered  silk  hair  ribbons 
to  match,"  Judy  said  and  paused  with  her  lips  earnestly 
parted,  showing  even  white  teeth  that  had  just  finished 

68 


Leslie  Dykstra 

crowding  out  the  baby  set.  "And  blue  socks,  boy-style, 
and  black  sateen  for  dancin'  drawers." 

"  Seems  like  that  last  item  air  a  luxury,"  Melia  told 
her.  "But  your  white  cotton  ones  bein'  patched  to  pieces 
from  skinnin'  the  cat  on  the  gate  bar,  kain't  have  people 
scandalized." 

"And  no  new  brogues?"  Peter  asked. 

"Kin  dance  a  heap  easier  in  old  leather,  anyhow,"  Judy 
declared,  and  went  in  a  whirl  of  cartwheels  across  the 
porch,  stirring  a  drift  of  leaves  at  the  far  end. 

"Come,  both,"  Melia  said.  "Contrive  sleep  now  so  to 
be  up  and  ready  for  Steuben  in  the  morning." 

Steuben  was  Melia's  brother.  He  lived  over  in  the 
Garden  settlement,  and  worked  as  a  trucker,  building 
roads.  But  he  was  faithful  to  plow  and  help  her  plant 
corn  in  the  cleared  patch  and  give  seasonal  advice. 

Stars  were  paling  when  he  drove  his  small  truck  up 
"Four-foot  Road"  and  on  to  the  narrow  cattle  trail  that 
in  old  times  was  The  Pike  leading  to  Tennessee.  There 
was  a  lemon-yellow  light  flushing  the  mountain  rim,  and 
by  the  fence  where  he  stopped  locust  and  aspen  leaves 
drew  silver  from  dawn. 

Fresh  hay  was  packed  in  the  truck  body  and  over  it  a 
straw  mattress.  It  was  a  soft  bed  for  Granpy  to  rest  on 
with  a  bolster  for  his  back  against  the  driver's  high  seat 
where  Melia  climbed. 

White  mists  bordered  thickets  of  blackberry  and  sumac 
when  the  car  got  under  way.  Judy,  facing  the  wide  log 
cabin  that  was  over-topped  by  giant  sugar  maples,  felt 
the  pang  of  great  enterprise  at  leaving  home.  Beyond 
rose  the  slanting  meadows,  lush  with  bluegrass,  where 
Jill  and  her  colt  and  the  feeder-steers  grazed.  The  house, 
its  rock  chimneys,  the  encircling  trees,  the  secret  blue- 
green  meadows,  together  formed  a  strategic  defence, 
cupped  lovely  and  remote,  which  she  dimly  felt  and  could 
find  no  words  for. 

69 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

At  the  first  ravine  crossing  Steuben  halted  the  car  and 
filled  two  jugs  at  his  favorite  spring.  The  water  came 
gushing  from  a  rocky  fissure,  sparkled  for  a  little  way 
across  a  clearing,  and  mysteriously  re-entered  the  dark 
earth. 

"Won't  find  water  God-freshened  as  this  anywhers 
down  yonder,"  he  declared,  and  the  sweep  of  his  arm 
took  in  the  world,  with  Burke's  Garden-valley  below  that 
was  beginning  to  shine  like  a  colored  patchwork  quilt 
spread  for  an  airing. 

As  they  joggled  on  again  Judy  could  hear  Melia  telling 
him  how  the  fine  green  dress  she  wore  had  been  come  by. 

"And  the  relief  Lady  entered  whilst  I  bargained  with 
that  old  smoothie — Bon  wick.  Came  close,  smiling  kindly- 
handsome,  a-lookin'  on  and  a-listenin'  in  as  if  I  might 
be  her  special  business  like  the  Coon  Hollow  folks.  Made 
old  Government-dawzzled  Bonwick  give  half  a  yard  more 
than  measured.  .  .  .  Then  she  went  rummagin'  and  outen 
a  barrel  of  clothes,  contributed  me  this,  'Here's  a  knitted 
suit,  a  bit  too  large  for  you  maybe,  but  little  worn.  Would 
you  like  it?'  Took  me  by  surprise.  Was  near  knocked 
speechless.  But  I  held  up  the  skirt,  lookin'  at  it  thisaway 
and  that,  and  thinkin',  'Ain't  no  Puryear  begged  yet  even 
from  Government  after  wartimes.'  But  I  took  further 
thought:  'Ifn  my  old  garments  air  so  seedy  a  stranger 
pities,  woe-me.  I  best  accept  the  gift  and  cause  no  shame 
to  Judy  at  the  Festival.'  Waited,  clearin'  my  mind, 
'twell  Bonwick  pushed  forward.  'Well,  do  you  want  it?' 
he  pressed,  'or  don't  you  want  it?  Tell  the  Lady.'  .  .  . 
So  I  said,  'Hit's  mighty  rump-sprung,  ma'm,  but  I  thank 
you  just  the  same.'" 

Judy  had  never  seen  beyond  the  green  bowl  of  Burke's 
Garden.  Now  she  found  herself  passing  over  its  farther 
rim,  only  to  meet  with  another  valley  and  still  another 
mountain  and  towns  with  names  like  early  history.  Ridin' 
fast,  time  kain't  be  measured,  she  thought.  No  sooner 

70 


Leslie  Dykstra 

leave  one  strange  sight  than  another  smacks  you  in  the 
eye,  and  fades  before  its  shape  is  known. 

When  they  had  dropped  Chilhowie  behind,  Granpy 
stretched  out  flat  and  went  to  sleep,  and  Judy  closed 
her  eyes  too,  and  only  came  awake  when  she  heard 
Steuben  saying  "Konnarock!"  Saying  "Konnarock"  as 
if  'twer  a  battle  won.  And  then  they  started  up  the  last 
long  grade  that  would  come  out  on  Flat  Top,  journey's 
end. 

Just  ahead  an  unwieldy  truck  rattled,  careless  of  King- 
dom Come.  Its  wide  bed  grazed  banks  of  shale  on  the 
one  side  and  on  the  other  overlapped  sheer  nothing.  In 
it  young  women  and  men  stood  packed  close  together, 
laughing  and  swaying  with  every  fearsome  lurch. 

Trailing  Steuben  was  a  shiny  automobile  that  held  fine 
town  ladies  who  hid  their  faces  in  gay  fluttering  handker- 
chiefs against  the  churned-up  dust.  Their  driver  wore  a 
special  cap  and  yet  looked  worried;  unlike  Uncle,  Judy 
thought,  who  could  close-curve  a  downgone  place  at 
road's  edge  withouten  qualms. 

Then  they  were  at  road  head,  and  a  sentinel  waved 
Steuben  to  a  stop.  There  was  a  sound  of  loud  voices  and 
commotion. 

"I'll  pay  you  no  dollar!"  Steuben  told  him. 

"I  got  to  collect  a  dollar  for  every  car  passed,"  the 
man  said. 

"Been  invited,  and  aim  to  fiddle." 

"Show  your  ticket  then  and  get  goin'!  You're  holdin5 
up  the  line." 

"Wasn't  handed  a  ticket." 

"In  that  case,  pay  me  a  dollar  and  go  get  a  rotund 
from  Sutherland,"  the  man  ordered  and  cussed  Steuben 
good  and  plenty. 

"See  you  in  hell,  first!"  And  Uncle,  fightin'  mad, 
braked  the  car  and  began  to  climb  down. 

"Aw,  keep  your  hickory  shirt  on,  friend,"  the  stranger 


Pur  year's  Hornpipe 

said,  changin'  his  tune  just  in  time,  and  made  out  to 
laugh,  passing  them  on;  though  whur  else  they  could  a 
passed  to  was  a  question,  Judy  pondered. 

Steuben  drove  by  a  mort  of  cars  drawn  close  together 
at  a  level  place,  paying  other  sentinels  no  mind,  and  took 
a  grass-slippy  track  to  summit,  a  short  journey  on,  there 
to  strike  camp.  All  was  happy  excitement. 

"Sis  honey,  redd  yourself  up  now,"  Melia  said,  sweep- 
ing them  all  free  of  dust  and  then  filled  a  tin  basin  with 
jug  water.  "Wash  face  and  hands.  .  .  .  Hi,  Granpy, 
how  you  feelin'?" 

"Fine  as  a  fiddle,  new-strung." 

"Here,  swallow  this  drop  o'  pick-me-up,  and  I  hope  it 
won't  knock  you  off'n  a  cliff  backward.  .  .  .  Steuben, 
light  into  the  victuals  now  and  eat  hearty." 

Steuben  was  grumbling,  half  boastfully,  "You  heered 
me  tell  him!  *  Unused  mountain-tops  air  free  for  all.'  " 

"Steub,  he's  too  quick  on  the  trigger,"  Melia  said 
laughing.  "But  a  dollar  a  car — gracious!  Who-all  gets 
the  money?"  And  Granpy  said,  "Man  whut  owns  the 
mountain,  likely,  and  no  wonder  he  failed  to  put  a  fence 
around  it!"  And  Steuben  laughed  fit  to  bust. 

Then  he  stood  Judy  on  a  high  rock  where  five  States 
could  be  seen  on  a  clear  day.  "But  we'd  best  brogue  it 
down  to  the  doin's  now,"  he  said.  "Might-nigh  time  for 
the  music.  I'll  guide  Granpy  whilst  you-all  tag  clost." 

It  didn't  take  long  to  get  to  the  Festival  tent,  but 
there  was  a  great  stir  of  people  in  and  out  of  the  entrances 
and  going  back  and  forth  from  the  refreshment  shelter. 
After  much  pushing  they  found  themselves  on  one  side 
of  the  platform  with  other  mountain  talent,  but  the  four 
rows  of  benches  were  already  taken,  and  they  had  to 
stand  alongside;  authorities  and  music  judges  sat  in  a 
row  of  chairs  opposite. 

Jim  Sutherland,  red-faced  and  breathing  hard,  rushed 
up  to  check  Steuben's  name  on  a  paper,  together  with 

72 


Leslie  Dykstra 

Judy's  who  would  dance  to  his  fiddling.  Though  mountain 
born,  Jim  had  the  dress  and  manners  of  town,  and  it 
was  said  he  had  got  himself  in  a  spraddle-fix,  with  one 
foot  set  on  a  mountain  and  t'other  in  a  city,  and  him 
not  knowin'  which  way  to  jump.  He  played  a  tricky 
banjo  himself,  and  today  served  well  as  linkster,  coupling 
mountain  and  city  understanding,  for  the  music  promoters. 
But  he  was  a  good  showman,  and  now  he  started  off 
the  preliminary  contests  in  banjo,  ballad-singing  and 
fiddle  music  by  introducing  a  man  who  gave  them  a 
party-piece,  quick  and  devilish: 

When  a  man  falls  in  love  with  a  little  turtle  dove, 

He  will  linger  all  around  her  under  jaw; 

He  will  kiss  her  for  her  mother  and  sister  and  brother 

Until  her  daddy  comes  and  kicks  him  from  the  door, 

Draws  the  pistol  from  his  pocket, 

Pulls  the  hammer  back  to  cock  it, 

And  vows  he  will  blow  away  his  giddy  brains; 

Oh,  his  ducky  says  he  mustn't 

'Tisn't  loaded,  and  he  doesn't, 

And  they're  kissing  one  another  once  again. 

Everybody  applauded,  even  those  jammed  in  the  walk- 
ways below  where  no  breeze  could  wend  through. 

Next  came  an  infare  song,  then  a  sorrowful  strain  that 
gave  way  in  turn  to  a  wistful  air  of  love. 

Judy  knew  many  of  them  and  joyfully  called  each  by 
name  to  Granpy.  "That's  'Leather  Britches/"  and 
"that's  ' Cripple  Creek,'"  and  "that's  'Herald's  Mur- 
der'"; and  even  town  folks,  who  had  come  to  listen, 
joined  in  singing  the  old  favorite,  "Barbara  Ellen,"  a 
courting  song  that  began  gayly  enough,  and  ended  in 
heart-break. 

Songs  followed  one  after  another  so  fast  it  left  no  time 
betwixt  to  think  on  a  one.  There  were  quick  tunes  made 
you  feel  upsy-daisy,  and  others  like  the  crack  o'  doom; 
verses  fast  as  skip-the-rope,  and  songs  with  many  stanzas 

73 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

weary  as  freight  cars — empties  foldin'  back  on  theirselves; 
but  Granpy  clapped  his  hands  for  each  singer  till  he  was 
tuckered,  and  a  fat  woman  gave  him  her  part  of  a  bench 
with  room  for  Judy  too. 

Jim  Sutherland,  in  a  nimble  bearm,  prodded  singers 
forward,  one  by  one,  only  to  hold  the  watch  on  each, 
bound  to  finish  and  make  way  for  the  next,  even  though 
applause  was  lavish,  and  compliments  plentiful. 

But  now  to  the  central  chair  of  honor  came  a  strong 
yet  gaunt  mountain  man  that  would  not  be  hurried. 
The  very  sight  of  his  kind  homeliness  smoothed  Judy's 
spirit. 

He  took  a  firm  position,  squared  to  the  world,  his  great 
head  fixed  like  a  winter-weary  hound  that  sits  in  pale 
sunlight  sniffing  at  spring.  Two  long  ginger-colored  locks 
of  hair  covered  his  ears,  and  his  eyes,  that  were  mild  and 
brown,  drooped  at  the  outward  corners.  Beneath  them 
hung  dewlaps  of  paunchy  skin. 

He  hummed  no  note  before.  His  mouth  opened,  and 
began  the  tune  on  a  midway  pitch.  With  the  timeless 
air  of  a  large  soul  he  sat,  and  his  voice  gathered  full 
volume  to  the  vibrant  chord  of  his  guitar,  and  then 
quieted  down  to  the  end  of  each  stanza.  He  was  no  more 
conscious  of  listening  people  than  distant  waters  of  a 
creek's  flowing;  and  as  the  ballad  glided  to  its  due  crest, 
Judy  glided  with  it,  carried  away  by  the  melancholy 
twang  whose  repetition  was  the  secret  of  spellbinding, 
felt  only  by  those  with  minds  easy  enough  to  give  over. 
The  words  were  not  so  important  as  the  feeling  invoked, 
with  colors  of  fantastic  pioneer  romance  and  all  that 
darkling  mountain  memory  held. 

Judy  saw  two  lovers  by  a  graveside.  The  air  seemed 
fragrant  with  cinnamon  pinks.  A  survigrous  sun  burst 
through  racing  clouds  and  orange-lighted  a  gliminery 
tombstone.  Slowly  the  lovers  embraced  beside  it,  and 
slowly  moved  away.  Smiling — sad,  then  happy,  they 

74 


Leslie  Dykstra 

took  a  leafy  crested  Pike  beyond — The  Wilderness  Road. 
In  mind's  eye,  she  saw  them  walking  steadily  through 
misty  woodland  and  purple  glen  amid  the  wayside  flowers 
and  rare  bird-twitter.  Two  lovers,  lovely  forevermore, 
haunting  The  Wilderness  Road.  .  .  . 

The  rapt  child  was  fere  with  the  singer.  .  .  .  But  sud- 
denly the  spell  was  broken. 

Jim  Sutherland  had  stepped  forth,  and  stood  whisper- 
ing in  one  majestic  ear;  and  the  people  out  front  restlessed 
on  their  bench  seats,  and  those  standing  in  walkways 
were  wilting. 

But  the  singer  would  not  be  hindered.  Another  verse 
began  and  traveled  on,  though  the  lovers  were  lost  now 
and  the  colors  faded.  Judy  felt  indignant  at  Sutherland 
for  shummacking  with  papers  in  his  hand,  and  Granpy 
whispered,  "That  singer  holds  to  his  spoiled  song,  clamped 
resolute  as  a  hound  to  a  wild  shoat's  ear!"  And  not  till 
it  came  to  a  proper  ending  did  the  man  leave  off  and  bow 
himself  away. 

Hardly  any  but  home  folks  clapped  their  pleasure,  and 
Granpy's  hands  were  the  last  to  quit,  because  he  felt 
sorry  for  the  big  man. 

"That  Sutherland's  an  unmannerly  cuss,"  he  said,  and 
his  neighbor  answered,  "  Might  better  kick  him  off  en  V 
outthrust  rock  as  pointedly  stop  a  singer  plumb  in  the 
midst." 

But  now  a  fiddler  with  a  rakish  air  came  and  struck 
up  a  lusty  tune. 

"'Way  Up  On  Clinch  Mountain',"  Judy  named,  her 
eyes  dancing,  and  Granpy  unkinked  himself  and  stood  up. 
"Hit's  like  a  gift  from  home,"  he  said,  and  everywhere 
feet  began  to  tap  the  ground. 

I'll  tune  up  my  fiddle,  I'll  rosin  my  bow 
Fll  make  myself  welcome  where  ever  I  go. 

And  folks  yelled,  "Yip-ee!"  and  joined  in  the  refrain. 

75 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

Lay  down  boys  and  take  a  little  nap, 

Lay  down  boys  and  take  a  little  nap, 

Lay  down  boys  and  take  a  little  nap, 

They're  raisin'  hell  in  Cumberland  Gap. 
Hic-cup!   Oh,  Lor-dy,  how  slee-py  I  feel 
Hic-cup!   Oh,  Lor-dy,  how  sleep-y  I  feel! 

And  Judy  swayed  with  the  others. 

Cumberland  Gap  is  a  noted  place 

There's  three  kinds  of  water  to  wash  your  face. 

"Wow!"  voices  called.    "Yip-ee!" 

Cumberland  Gap  with  its  cliffs  and  rocks, 
Home  of  the  panther,  bear  and  fox 

And  again  the  people  joined  in,  singing  the  refrain. 

Hic-cup!   Oh,  Lor-dy,  how  slee-py  I  feel 
Hic-cup!   Oh,  Lor-dy,  how  sleep-y  I  feel! 

But  at  last  Jim  Sutherland  filled  the  platform  with  his 
ownself,  full  of  eager  talk,  giving  and  taking  thanks, 
"Until  after  dinner.  .  .  .  More  talent  than  time 
for.  .  .  ."  And  folks  streamed  outside  making  out  to 
hiccup,  "How  slee-py  I  feel!" 

"No  sense  in  Granpy  broguin'  all  the  way  to  summit 
and  back,"  Melia  told  Judy.  "Steub  and  I'll  fetch  victuals 
and  drink,  whilst  you  stay  by  him  and  mind  he  takes  a 
nap  o'  sleep."  And  Granpy  stretched  out  under  a  tree 
and  Judy  rested  by  turns,  between  practice  of  Hornpipe 
steps,  so  to  be  ready  when  called. 

The  sun  was  hot  but  the  air  stayed  cool,  and  she  felt 
terribly  hungry,  and  the  meat  and  bread  and  Steuben's 
bought  pop-water  tasted  better  than  any  victuals  known. 
After  his  sleep  Peter  was  up-and-coming,  and  he  got  him 
a  special  chair  with  a  back  so  to  keep  rested  while  the 
tent  was  filling.  Soon  it  had  over-flowed,  and  common 
folks  kept  sitting  down  in  chairs  opposite  the  mountain 


Leslie  Dykstra 

talent,  and  were  asked  to  get  up  again;  but  none  bothered 
Granpy  till  two  men  began  to  push,  making  way  for  music- 
judges  to  pass  in. 

Then,  at  row's  end,  a  lady  in  a  sleezy-silky  dress,  yellow 
as  a  daffodil,  stood  behind  him  with  her  red  lips  puckered, 
and  her  suitor-man  laid  impatient  hands  on  the  chairback. 

"You'll  have  to  get  up;  these  seats  are  reserved." 

But  Peter  was  puzzled  and  turned  around,  and  the 
fellow  took  firm  hold  and  lifted  him  to  his  feet  so  the 
lady  could  have  her  place.  And  Steuben,  with  his  face 
colored  by  a  certain  fierceness  of  blood,  rushed  up  and 
warned  him,  "H5-you!"  in  a  smoulder.  "Take  keer  how 
you  quick  rough-handle  a  grandsir,  mister,  happen  you 
prize  tomorrow's  grace!"  But  the  man  only  smiled  and 
turned  his  back  on  Steuben  and  begged  pardon  of  the 
lady  as  if  he  asked  pardon  for  Steuben.  And  she  smiled 
back  at  him  and  sat  down.  And  Jim  Sutherland  rushed 
up  in  another  bearm,  telling  Uncle,  "Cross  over." 

So  Steuben  took  Granpy's  arm  and  drew  him  to  his 
old  place  with  other  mountain  folks,  and  a  girl  gave  him 
her  bench-seat  and  excitement  died  down.  Yet  there  was 
muttering,  and  some  spoke  their  minds  out  loud  with 
downright  displeasure.  "No  able-bodied  young  woman, 
however  fine,  need  bid  an  aged  man  stand." 

Judy  felt  downcast  till  a  fiddler  began  to  play  and  two 
young  fellows  clogged  in  white  canvas  shoes.  The  music 
made  her  toes  tingle,  and  Granpy  perked  up  happily. 
Other  tunes  and  dances  followed,  and  she  stood  like  a 
race-colt  straining  at  the  rope  barrier,  hardly  able  to  hold 
back.  "I'll  be  next,"  she  thought  each  time  a  dancer 
was  called. 

A  small  girl  with  a  red  cotton  dress  danced  buck-and- 
wing;  her  shiny  black  shoes  had  cut  out  places  in  front 
and  they  stepped  it  proud,  and  it  seemed  the  tent  would 
split  open  to  rid  itself  of  sound  when  people  clapped  their 
compliments.  Judy's  heart  pumped  and  swelled  with 

77 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

pride  for  the  stranger.  "Now!"  she  told  herself,  bubbling 
over.  "My  time,  certain."  But  still  another  was  called, 
and  Judy  had  never  seen  anything  like  her  outside  an 
almanack.  Surely  a  dolly  cherished  for  her  beauty.  A 
city  creature  strayed  to  the  mountains  by  mischance. 
Dress  and  drawers  were  a  short  smother  of  pink  ruffles 
matching  the  pink  of  plump  bare  legs  ending  in  pink 
leather.  Her  eyes  were  wide  morning  glory-blue,  and  her 
hair  new  cornsilk-yellow.  The  small  feet  tapped  out  a 
simple  story,  but  their  meaning  was  less  clever  than  the 
wide  silken  bow  that  poised  like  a  butterfly  on  her  head 
and  made  a  flutter-dance  all  its  own. 

"Such  loveliness  would  shame  a  flower-thing  jigging  on 
its  roots,"  she  thought,  adoring  even  as  her  heart  sank 
recalling  her  own  dark  looks.  That  this  small  dolly  would 
win  the  medal  was  not  a  matter  of  doubt.  Yet  polite 
noise  that  followed  was  less  than  prodigious. 

Wave  after  wave  of  banjo  and  fiddle  music  fared  forth, 
and  Peter  sat  with  his  eyes  closed  and  a  happy  smile  on 
his  face. 

"Pore  Granpy.  A-lovin'  music  so  and  disabled  to  play 
more.  .  .  .  Yet  just  happy  to  be  and  not  in  a  swivet  to 
do,"  she  tried  to  whisper  Uncle  who  paid  her  no  attention. 
And  even  while  figuring  thus,  she  saw  Granpy's  fingers 
begin  to  twitch  and  he  cupped  an  ear  forward  as  if  doubt- 
ing a  rumor  heard,  and  his  eyes  strained  hard  like  a  man 
on  a  far  peak  searching  home's  familiar  landmark. 

Then  it  came  to  Judy  that  the  tune  begun  the  moment 
past  was  none  other  than  the  Puryear  Hornpipe — 
Granpy's  own! — the  tune  woven  inside  his  own  head 
when  he  was  young  and  the  same  later  taught  to  Steuben, 
who  meant  to  play  it  here  for  her  to  dance. 

A  handsome  young  man  was  fiddling  it  with  passion, 
and  as  Granpy's  glory  of  youth  was  unravelled,  the 
ground  began  to  quake  with  heel-stomping  and  the  plat- 
form quivered. 

78 


Leslie  Dykstra 

Granpy  got  up  from  the  bench  liken  a  man  gone  agley, 
and  Uncle  Steuben  came  and  whispered  and  got  hold  of 
Jim  Sutherland  and  whispered,  and  the  music  stopped 
on  a  sudden,  and  people  clapped  the  tent  upside  down. 
The  fiddler  bowed  and  stepped  quickly  back,  and  the 
noise  went  on,  louder  than  before,  while  Sutherland  and 
Steuben  brought  him  over  to  Granpy.  And  the  old  man's 
gray  eyes  peered  into  the  young  man's  face,  and  he  stam- 
mered, "Be  you  Christopher  Buchan?" 

"Christopher's  grandson,  sir;  my  name  is  Charles 
Buchan."  And  the  fiddler  took  Granpy's  hand  in  a  tight 
clasp,  saying,  "Can  it  be  true  that  Peter  Puryear,  the 
man  my  grandsir  loved  above  all  other  men,  is  found  at 
last?" 

"'Tis  a  miracle,"  Peter  said,  and  his  eyes  went  misty 
and  the  two  stood  there  still  clasping  hands  whilst  people 
called  and  whistled. 

Then  Sutherland  prodded  Charles  Buchan  out  to  the 
front,  and  again  the  Hornpipe  sounded,  and  people 
swayed  to  its  magic  rhythm  as  before,  and  all  of  Judy's 
body  was  just  one  crave  to  dance.  "I  wish,  I  wish," 
tap-tapping  in  her  heart  to  the  music's  beat. 

Uncle  Steuben,  good  player  though  he  was,  would 
never  fiddle  the  same  piece  after  this  master,  she  knew, 
and  a  bold  thought  struck  her.  Should  I  leap  right  out 
in  face  of  reason,  could  not  a  soul  stop  my  heel-and-toe. 
And  her  feet,  near  past  control,  would  have  done  that 
sin  of  brazenness  directly  had  not  the  music  closed  in 
mid-air.  But  this  time  Charles,  with  up-raised  hand, 
put  a  stop  to  clamor.  And  the  tent  grew  quiet  as  a  church. 

"Ladies  and  gentlemen,"  he  said  in  a  voice  held-back 
and  dream-struck.  "  I  wish  to  give  you  thanks  for  hearten- 
ing praise.  .  .  .  The  music  you  seem  to  favor  is  a  piece 
called  Puryear's  Hornpipe,  and  it  was  composed  by  a 
man  of  that  name.  Now  Peter  Puryear  was  the  greatest 
fiddler  of  his  day,  and  my  grandsir's  beloved  friend  of 

79 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

long  ago.  They  traveled  far  together,  shared  many  strange 
adventures,  till  my  kinsman  married  and  settled  down, 
and  Peter  shogged  off  on  another  road  and  lost  himself 
to  sight;  but  my  grandsir  kept  his  memory  green,  and 
taught  me  the  famous  Hornpipe  when  I  was  still  a 
youngun.  .  .  . 

"  Friends,  they-two  will  n'er  meet  again  on  any  moun- 
tain road  of  earth,  though  here  at  this  Folk  Festival  today 
I  feel  them  near  united.  But — " 

And  the  people  waited  in  deep  quiet  as  Charles  stepped 
swiftly  backward.  He  put  one  strong  young  arm  around 
frail  Granpy's  shoulder  and  brought  him  slowly  forward. 

"Friends,  I  want  you  to  meet  that  famous  man — Peter 
Puryear,  right  now." 

There  was  a  moment  of  hushed  surprise,  then  such  a 
thunder  of  approval  as  made  old  Peter  sway.  Men  threw 
up  their  hats,  careless  of  how  their  property  fell,  and 
women  waved  bright  pocket  handkerchiefs.  " Hurrah! 
Hurrah  for  Peter  Puryear!"  they  called,  and  Judy  was 
dizzy  with  pride. 

Granpy  touched  his  eyes  with  the  clean  blue  handker- 
chief Melia  had  given  him  three  years  ago  come  Christmas; 
then,  mistily  smiling,  he  gave  them  a  low  bow  of  ancient 
manners,  and  let  Charles  guide  him  back  to  his  platform 
place. 

"  Now  for  me,"  Judy  thought  excitedly.  "  I'll  do  Granpy 
so  proud  he'll  ne'er  again  have  cause  to  mourn  havin'  no 
son  with  talent  of  a  sort.  I  kain't  fiddle,  but  I  kin  dance 
good  as  any  yet  seen,  'spite  o'  my  looks." 

Applause  that  had  died  down  started  up  once  more, 
the  people  clapping  out  a  rhythm  of  their  own  invention, 
slow  yet  pleasantly  determined  not  to  give  over  until 
Charles  would  come  back  to  play  the  Puryear  Hornpipe. 

Sutherland  and  Uncle  were  whispering  together.  Un- 
doubtedly they  were  planning  for  Judy  to  dance  while 
Charles  pleasured  the  folks.  She  smoothed  her  dress, 

80 


Leslie  Dykstra 

quivering  like  a  leggy  high-breed  before  it  leaps  in  pas- 
ture. 

But  close  on  the  heels  of  this  happening,  all  fiddlers 
were  judged,  and  the  people's  choice  easily  giving  Charles 
Buchan  first  prize,  he  pinned  the  medal  on  Granpy's  coat 
without  ado,  declaring  he  himself  owned  medals  enough 
for  any  man,  and  this  one  was  earned  by  the  Hornpipe 
more  than  the  fiddling. 

Judy  could  hardly  believe  there  was  nothing  more  to 
come,  until  she  found  herself  lagging  behind  Melia,  in  a 
daze,  as  they  went  toward  summit. 

"Come,  baby,"  Melia  was  saying,  "we'll  hurry  ahead 
and  lay  out  victuals  for  the  men  folks."  But  there  were 
little  spiders  weaving  first  webs  in  Judy's  heart,  closing 
out  sunlight,  so  that  she,  so  light-stepping  by  wont, 
brogued  slow,  as  though  blinded. 

Then  they  were  at  the  truck,  where  Charles  Buchan 
drank  many  toddicks  of  pure  home-brew  with  Uncle  and 
Granpy,  celebrating  inherited  friendship,  till  Melia  called 
them  to  sup,  and  she  told  how  Judy's  dance  had  got  lost 
in  the  shuffle.  And  the  visitor  said  it  was  a  shame,  and 
she  would  have  to  dance  to  his  playing  when  he  came  soon 
to  visit  with  Granpy  and  talk  family  history.  But  she 
felt  empty  as  a  skeleton  leaf  that  can  make  no  whisper  of 
song;  and  before  she  could  gather  breath  for  a  word  of 
politeness,  he  was  gone,  and  Uncle  Steuben  said  Charles 
was  a  popular  man  and  company  awaited  him. 

Later  Melia  fixed  blankets  and  pillows,  and  Granpy 
was  hoisted  into  the  truck  bed,  with  Melia  and  Judy  on 
either  side,  and  Steuben  went  off  in  search  of  cronies.  It 
was  cold  on  this  high  peak,  and  she  pulled  up  the  quilts 
saying,  "Now  I  lay  me  down  to  sleep,  I  pray  the  Lord — " 
but  then  thought  fearfully,  "maybe  God  doesn't  love  me 
any  more,"  yet  sleep  came  soon  as  head  touched  pillow, 
and  dreams: 

"Your  turn  next,"  said  the  lady-judge,  dressed  in  dove- 

81 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

gray,  and  next  thing  Judy  was  dancing;  but  her  leather 
shoes  that  curled  up  slightly  at  the  toes  began  to  grow 
longer  and  tripped  her  up  at  last. 

Quivering,  Judy  sat  up  on  the  straw  bed  in  the  truck 
and  came  wide  awake.  The  sky  was  a  silver  meadow, 
yet  brimmed  with  sadness,  and  a  sorrow  hammered  on 
her  heart  to  be  loosed.  The  prime  reason  for  her  folks 
coming  here  had  been  to  see  her  dance.  But  afterward, 
foreign  thoughts  seemed  to  crowd  her  out  of  their  minds 
much  as  she  had  been  forgotten  by  the  program  makers. 

Melia  and  Uncle  had  scarcely  named  her  disappoint- 
ment to  her,  and  even  Granpy  was  like  a  stranger,  and 
she  was  lost  in  misery,  wishing  herself  safe  home  on  her 
own  mountain. 

Thin  ribbons  of  cloud  drifted  across  the  moon,  yet  it 
lighted  the  dark  shapes  of  trees  whose  limbs  stuck  straight 
out  or  downward,  uncaring  to  shelter  a  body  like  home 
maples;  trees  that  made  themselves  small,  wary  as  men 
on  a  height,  marked  for  target.  And  the  mountain  itself 
was  unfriendly,  standing  apart  from  fellow-peaks.  Small 
wonder  if  common-sweet  posies  feared  to  grow  a-top,  and 
flowing  water  kept  hid.  'Twould  be  a  poor  place  for  a 
morning  ramble  in  the  dew. 

"Here  be  I — Judy  Puryear,  traveled  to  the  tallest 
summit,  only  to  get  me  a  hurt.  .  .  .  Grandling  of  a  famous 
man,  and  me  only  a  one  to  laugh  at."  Then  she  saw  that 
Peter's  eyes  were  wide,  staring  up  at  the  violet-silver 
sky. 

"Granpy,  you  see  yon  flying  moon?"  she  asked,  choking 
back  a  sob.  And  when  he  answered  her  with,  "  Three 
moons,  I  been  seein',  come  moon  time,  this  long  while, 
'count  o'  short-sightedness,"  she  said,  "Must  be  a  star 
for  each  and  every  gathered  on  this  yer  Mount.  See  ary 
a  one  singly?" 

"They  flow  together  in  my  sight;  but  ifn  you  glimpse 
one  fairer  than  all  others,  'twell  bear  the  name  of  Nancy 

82 


Leslie  Dykstra 

Wynne — her  that  chose  my  best  friend,  Christopher 
Buchan,  for  a  bridegroom." 

"Now  ain't  that  a  sompin',"  Judy  thought,  recalling 
how  Granpy's  own  true  wife-woman  was  birth-named 
Martha  Stone.  And  she  said,  "Granpy,  was  that  why 
you  shogged  off  on  another  road?" 

" Reckon,"  he  said,  closing  his  eyes  peacefully.  "Sheep's 
in  meadow,  and  cow's  in  corn." 

Two  weeks  had  passed  in  special  quiet  since  the  journey, 
and  Granpy  still  counted  on  Christopher  Buchan's  grand- 
son, now  a  day  overdue.  But  a  cattle-buyer  who  com- 
bines business  with  fiddling  cannot  be  expected  to  toe  a 
calendar  mark. 

The  mountainside  flourished  with  green  and  hot  suns 
drank  up  heavy  fogs,  for  nights  were  cool,  with  much 
rain  fallen. 

Melia  had  put  off  the  green  store-suit,  and  with  it 
bundled  out  of  sight  all  dreams  of  rich  dress  goods  and 
lowland  women's  finery,  and  contented  herself  with 
braiding  a  rug.  Judy  could  see  how  she  rejoiced  in  each 
new  round  of  sameness. 

Granpy  vegetated  in  the  shade  for  such  long  hours  un- 
moving,  "Hit  wouldn't  surprise  me  none  were  his  head 
to  send  up  silver  sprouts,"  she  told  Judy.  "I  misdoubt 
me  he's  ailing  some.  A  body'd  never  devyse,  for  all  he'd 
tell,  unwishful  to  cause  me  trouble." 

Peter  came  to  life  on  a  sudden  and  his  mouth  puckered 
into  a  denial;  but  after  a  puff  or  two  of  smoke  he  put  the 
pipe  down.  "Baccy  distastes  me  somehow." 

So  Melia  went  to  the  spring-shelter,  chose  a  dew-rimmed 
jug  small  as  a  syrup  pitcher,  and  plucked  a  sprig  of  mint. 

"Might's  well  get  the  good  of  this  now  as  ever,"  she 
said,  offering  his  glass  with  the  manner  of  politeness 
that  had  always  held  between  them,  and  sat  down  for  a 
gossip. 

83 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

He  took  a  sip.  "Whoo-^/  M-m.  ...  I  rate  that 
master.  Must  save  some  for  Charles  and  Steuben." 

"Steub's  in  love,"  she  said,  and  Peter  stared.  "Hit 
beats  all.  Here  was  he,  a  counted-on  bachelor,  payin' 
him  no  mind  to  home  girls.  Standin'  word-haltered  and 
lackluster  frontin'  the  prettiest.  Had  to  go  climb  the 
highest  mount  to  come  on  romance." 

Granpy  tilted  back,  suddenly  jubilant  at  this  piece  of 
news.  " Mankind!  What  like?" 

"A  stylish  one  from  over  near  Baptist  Valley.  No  whit 
better-favored  than  ary  a  home  girl.  First  claps  eyes  on 
her,  whispers  me,  'There's  my  woman!'  Courtship  trav- 
eled faster'n  a  March  hare.  Tips  her  a  'howdy'  at  noon- 
time, and  the  same  night  bespeaks  her  to  wed." 

"That's  courtin*!  .  .  .  What  I  mean:  courtin'.  .  .  . 
'Twas  the  starlight.  .  .  .  Music." 

"Aims  to  go  see  after  her  next  week." 

Peter's  eyes  glowed  with  interest.  "We'll  have  another 
party."  And  he  lifted  his  head  lilting: 

"We'll  give  the  bride-and-groom  a  happy  wedding- 
infare — "  And  broke  off  to  laugh  with  childish  de- 
light. 

"Granpy,  my  gracious!  You're  a  scandal,"  she  said 
smiling  and  brought  him  his  fiddle. 

"Then  my  old  age  ain't  wasted,"  he  made  boast,  im- 
mensely pleased.  "Melia-girl,  I  been  a-studyin'  over 
Government  news-tales  Steub  told  us,  and  wove  words 
to  fit,  steppin'  up  an  old  ballad  to  match  new  times. 
Seems  as  though  our  songs  air  too  behind.  Heark  now." 
And  he  swept  the  bow  across  strings  with  unwonted  ease 
and  sang  to  the  tune  of  Cumberland  Gap: 

Wake  up  boys,  you  been  too  long  a  nappin', 
Ain't  a  thing  in  Cumberland  likely  now  to  happen. 

"Wouldn't  wonder  me  you  could  fight  yore  weight  in 
wildcats  this  minute,"  Melia  said  laughing.  And  Peter 


Leslie  Dykstra 

paused  and  took  another  sip,  and  his  voice  got  strong 
and  he  sawed  right  on  through  six-to-a-dozen  stanzas: 

Rise  up  boys,  big  times  are  gone, 
Hell's  done  moved  up  to  D.C.-town. 
Make  yourselves  welcome  to  Roos-e-velt 
With  a  coonskin  cap  and  a  panther-pelt. 
Fetch  along  a  fiddle,  a  Clinch  Mountain  fox, 
Horn  full  o'  powder  with  your  old  flintlocks 
And  three  kinds  of  water  to  wash  your  face 
When  you  arrive  at  the  President-place. 
Hic-cup!    Oh,  Lor-dy,  how  slee-py  I  feel 
Hic-cup!    Oh,  Lor-dy,  how  sleep-y  I  feel. 

Melia  was  bent  over  with  laughter  when  he  put  down 
his  fiddle,  scant  of  breath.  "Whur  at's  Judy?" 

"Settin'  right  behind  ye." 

"What  makes  her  so  quiet?" 

"I'm  unknowin'.  That  child  no  longer  contents  herself. 
She's  a  worry.  Past  starvation,  yet  withouten  room  for 
good  corn  bread.  Seems  like  we  all  got  benefitted  by  the 
Music  Festival  except  my  lambkin.  I  sells  my  rug — ain't 
nobody  goin'  to  climb  these  ycre  back  hills  a-searchin' 
out  my  handiwork,  Steub  finds  himself  a  wife-woman, 
and  you  get  bestowed  a  medal." 

Judy  rose  from  the  steps  and  started  moseying  along 
on  the  smoke-house  path  where  a  hantle  of  chickens 
roamed,  separately  gawking.  The  close  dappled  shadows 
of  branches  turned  gray,  and  the  sun  moved  over  toward 
Tazewell,  making  a  fozy  smear  in  the  distant  sky. 

But  Melia  called,  "  Jude"  in  a  tone  that  best  be  obeyed. 
"Come  stay  by  Granpy." 

So  she  moseyed  back,  and  stood  leaning  against  the 
old  man's  chair. 

"I'm  a  tunin'  up  fer  a  hornpipe,"  he  wared  her  in- 
vitingly. But  she  was  heedless  of  music. 

"Heark  now  to  the  voice  of  my  fiddle;  guess  what  like 
is  this?" — and  Peter  drew  his  bow  again  and  the  strings 
answered  with  a  lilting  lament :  "  Whip ! whip !  whip ! — 

BS 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

whip-<?<?-r-will,"  and  the  sound  was  so  blithesome-lonely 
it  made  her  heart  skip  a  beat. 

"Hit's  the  long-lost,  askin'  why,"  she  said. 

"'Tain't  so,"  and  his  smile  twinkled.  "Baby,  sposen 
you  cut  me  a  caper?  Remember  the  jiggin'  step  you 
scotched  outen  the  bean  patch,  day  before  journey?" 

"Kain't  recall.  Anyways  I  aim  to  sew  me  a  seam  and 
get  grown,  leavin'  off  dancin'." 

"Leave  off  dancin'!"  The  old  man  stared  in  unbelief. 
Then  he  drew  her  head  down  to  rest  on  his  shoulder. 
"Why,  you  got  a  lifefull  o'  dancin'  before  you.  'Course 
by  courtin'  time  you'll  leave  off  hornpipe  antics,  and'll 
swing  yore  partner;  and  later  join  in  play-games  with  the 
olduns.  But  a  bonnie  lass,  light-footed  and  glad-hearted 
by  nature,  air  bound  to  reel  it  'twell  she's  trembly." 
And  he  began  a  shaking  movement  with  his  foot  like  a 
jiggery  ancient,  and  Judy  was  obliged  to  laugh;  but  she 
held  onto  downgone  feelings  that  could  no  more  be  named 
than  the  name  of  straw-flowers  in  general. 

"Kain't  dance  theseadays.  Do  I  try,  my  feet  get 
tangled.  Old  ankle  bones  won't  rock  me  clever." 

"Ifn  you  would  dance,  yore  spirit  would  ease." 

"You  darling  Granpy,"  she  said,  giving  him  a  quick 
hug.  "Guess  I'll  go  fix  a  mash-feed  for  Jill." 

The  sun  came  back,  and  Granpy  stared  downward  at 
the  Garden-valley  as  if  his  thoughts  had  turned  wandery; 
but  when  Judy  was  half-way  up  the  slant  meadow  she 
could  hear  his  fiddle  speaking  lonesomely;  calling,  "Whip! 
whip ! — whip — ^-r-will — ? " 

The  dusk  was  like  every  other,  with  birds  here  and  there 
in  the  trees  and  a  dewy  perfume  of  roses  stirred  by  a  faint 
wind. 

But  when  Judy  went  to  the  porch  to  say  supper  was 
ready  she  found  he  was  asleep.  He  sat  in  his  chair,  propped 
by  the  fiddle,  with  his  chin  resting  on  the  smooth  wood, 
as  if  ready  to  pitch  a  new  tune. 

86 


Leslie  Dykstra 

So  she  tiptoed  away;  but  when  Melia  came,  she  knew 
he  would  never  wake  more. 

"Withouten  a  sound,  or  a  chime  o'  warnin',"  she  whis- 
pered, "more  than  the  ghostly  call  o'  a  whippoorwill." 

The  nearest  settlement  preacher  being  smit  with  an 
illness,  'twas  left  for  Steuben  to  carry  the  funeral  service 
bravely  forward.  Near-boundary  neighbors  were  seated 
on  chairs  and  boxes  in  the  long  front  room,  waiting  while 
he  studied  what,  for  a  sermon.  The  day  was  beautiful 
with  sun  and  lively  chirping  and  the  whir  of  a  lone  katy- 
did, but  inside  gloom  crept  over  Judy. 

Steuben  failing  of  words  to  begin,  the  company  saw 
his  trouble,  and  some  one  pitched  a  tune,  and  all  lornly 
voices  raised  a  doleful  hymn.  And  when  the  dreary  notes 
had  sighed  themselves  to  a  close,  silence  grew,  with  the 
mourners  staring  straight  ahead  as  if  they,  too,  failed  of 
thinking. 

Then  another  melancholy  tune  was  begun.  It  bade  all 
wicked  sinners  heed  and  offered  lasting  torment. 

And  when  it  seemed  he  would  speak  at  last,  a  widow- 
cumberworld  in  sable  weeds  put  up  her  frousty  veil  and 
picked  her  a  ballad  to  suit  her  mind's  condition;  she 
stretched  her  neck  and  quavered  a  note,  and  neighbors 
took  the  pitch  and  carried  it  forward.  The  words  were 
roundabout  and  awesome.  They  dug  up  smouldering 
sorrows  best  left  be,  and  the  long-drawn  chant  made 
Judy  sob,  and  Steuben  frowned  like  a  thunderstorm.  He 
loomed  by  the  windowside,  both  hands  thrust  into  britches 
pockets,  as  might  a  man  wrestling  in  outer  darkness. 
Then  he  stepped  free  on  a  sudden,  and  his  face  cleared 
and  the  wailing  was  cut  off. 

"Friends,"  he  said  simply,  "hit's  hard  to  speak  private 
feelings  in  public,  and  I'm  fair  puzzled  to  choose  a  text 
fitten  for  Uncle  Peter.  But  my  religion  tells  me  there's 
no  call  for  high  palamity  of  grief.  Seems  how  such  a 

87 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

gladsome  spirit  owns  far  less  need  o'  prayer  than  our  own 
frecket  souls.  .  .  .  You'll  bear  me  out,  remembering  his 
golden  rule:  'Be  happy — case  bein'-so  runs  up  no  bill  for 
other  men  to  foot.'  .  .  . 

"I  got  no  fear  he'll  fail  o'  heaven.  I'm  bold  to  believe 
he  got  a  call  from  there.  .  .  .  Must  be  a  mort  o'  folks 
been  broguin'  the  golded  streets,  cravin'  a  change  from 
hymns,  might  petition  the  Lord  for  Peter  Puryear,  with 
his  mountain-fetched  fiddle  that  he  hand-rived  from  the 
heart  o'  a  maple  .  .  .  cronies,  and  folks  what  'bal- 
anced all' — dancin'  when  here,  to  his  tune  times  un- 
numbered." .  .  . 

The  mourners  were  not  scandalized  at  this,  but  listened 
solemnly,  as  if  considering  how  well  the  words  might  be 
taken. 

And  Steuben  was  suddenly  drawn  up  into  something 
finer  than  his  own  rough-hewn  self.  His  voice,  by  nature 
harsh  and  contentious,  now  richened,  full  of  persuasion, 
and  grew  deep  with  feeling. 

"What  I  aim  to  say:  hit's  certain-sure  St.  Peter  won't 
leave  his  namesake  standin'  outen  whilst  he  gives  him 
word-o'-a-sort.  No.  .  .  .  All  is — when  Peter,  fiddler  and 
happy  spinner  of  tales,  stands  before  Peter,  serious  Saint, 
he'll  hear,  'Enter  withingatesS  And  might  even  call, 
'Choose  yore  partners;  we^ll  run  a  set.'" 

And  "Amen!"  "Fair  enough,"  and  "Likely-undoubt- 
edly,"  was  answered. 

"  Folks — say  we  give  Uncle  Peter  a  happy  outfare?  .  .  . 
Ifn  his  spirit  lingers  close,  regretful  of  leavin'  his  home- 
place,  say  we  fiddle  him  close  to  the  pearly  gates  with 
music  that  matched  him?" 

And  the  company  gathered  Steuben's  meaning  whole- 
somely and  only  waited  to  rejoice  with  him. 

Straight-off  he  settled  himself  and  started  a  galloping 
ballad-song  commonly  known  and  enjoyed.  And  with 
this  change  of  music,  the  room's  funereal  darkness  became 

88 


Leslie  Dy ks tra 

festal;  grief  brightening  into  gladness,  and  fear  into 
hope — all  growing  together  as  if  to  show  how  like  are 
gay  things  and  sorrowful. 

Judy's  tears  had  stopped,  yet  her  own  heart  was  still 
lavish  with  grief,  recalling  how  she  had  denied  Granpy 
when  he  bade  her  cut  a  caper  but  two  days  gone.  And 
not  till  Uncle  Steuben  shogged  off  into  a  lively  jig-tune 
did  the  hurt  give  over.  Feet  softly  tapped  the  floor  in  a 
wide  half-circle,  and  her  own  black  leather  brogues  tapped 
with  company. 

When  the  tune  was  near  done  a  latecomer  entered 
quietly.  He  paused  for  a  moment  beside  the  smooth- 
boarded  box  that  rested  at  the  farther  hearth,  then  turned 
to  Steuben,  who  took  his  hand  in  a  fervent  grasp. 

Judy's  eyes  blinked  in  amaze  at  seeing  Charles  Buchan 
once  again. 

"I  come  too  late,"  he  said  regretfully. 

"Happen  not,"  Steuben  said,  offering  the  fiddle  to 
Charles. 

"I'd  be  proud,"  Charles  answered,  and  directly  the 
strings  sang  with  a  melody  of  woodland  sounds.  And 
every  stroke  of  the  bow  conjured  something  new:  tree- 
tops  in  a  gale,  music  of  bubbling  rain,  waterfalls  rushing, 
myriad  voices  of  birds. 

Then,  as  if  this  Forest  Medley  had  served  him  only  to 
test  the  instrument,  he  waded  point-blank  into  the  Pur- 
year  Hornpipe;  and  as  Charles  Buchan  played,  the  tone 
of  Peter's  beloved  fiddle  grew  proud  and  full.  The  box 
quivered  and  came  fully  alive  and  gave  out  everything 
it  had  to  master  hand.  Company's  heels  were  set  afire 
keeping  time  to  that  marvelous  beat,  and  Judy  felt  lifted 
and  spun  in  a  sudden  dizziness,  light  as  a  leaf  in  a  puff  of 
wind. 

"Oh!  I  crave  to  pleasure  my  Granpy  too,"  she  cried, 
and  Uncle  nodded. 

Next  thing,  radiant,  she  leaped  to  front  and  went 

89 


Puryear's  Hornpipe 

whirling  east  and  west  across  the  floor  like  the  flicker  of 
a  dancing  sunbeam. 

It  was  almost  as  if  Granpy  had  laid  his  summons  on 
her  spirit;  for  she  danced  religiously,  obeying  harmony's 
pure  demand.  And  as  the  rhythmic  waves  of  hilarious 
sound  pulsated  through  her  being,  Judy  could  feel  a 
Holiness  above  her.  Each  sportive  leap  in  the  Hornpipe 
figures  was  begun  with  her  arms  wide  as  if  they  were 
broad  fans  of  a  fairy  angel  opening  for  flight. 

The  mourner's  faces  shone  with  reverence  for  the 
child's  unconscious  act  of  grace  and  simplicity — their 
healthy  mountain  senses  rejoicing  in  the  natural.  They 
watched,  whispering,  two  and  two, — of  Charles  and  Judy: 

"Fiddlin'  and  dancin'  Peter's  spirit  up  to  the  pearly 
gates." — "Never  seen  a  service  more  fitten  to  a  body's 
character." 

"And  she,  spry  as  a  hopper  a-scizzorin'  air." — "Leaped 
so  high,  feared  me  she'd  get  herself  hung  from  the  rafter — 
time  that  long  string  o'  herbs  wropped  her  round." 

"Could  no  angel  tap  out  sweeter  hallelujahs  though  did 
they  come  down  to  earth  and  try." — "Unless  inspired  by 
that  one's  music." 

"'Twould  make  a  gouty  oak  tree  hobble." — "Way  she 
ankles  it  cautions  me  go  limber  up  my  ownself  before 
life's  fire  quenches." 

And  when,  at  last,  the  Hornpipe  bade  her  reel  in  a 
magic  rope,  all  the  little  spiders  that  had  enshrouded 
Judy's  heart  wound  up  their  silken  threads  and  were 
blown  away. 


90 


SILENT  SNOW,  SECRET  SNOW 
by 

Conrad  Aiken 


CONRAD  AIKEN  was  born  in  1889  in  Savannah,  Georgia. 
At  Harvard  University  he  distinguished  himself  in  poetry, 
and  in  1930  he  was  awarded  the  Pulitzer  Prize  for  his  Se- 
lected Poems.  Although  primarily  a  poet,  he  has  written 
a  novel,  Blue  Voyage,  that  displays  mastery  of  the  "stream 
of  consciousness"  technique,  and  many  distinguished  short 
stories. 


SILENT   SNOW,   SECRET   SNOW 

I 

JUST  why  it  should  have  happened,  or  why  it  should 
have  happened  just  when  it  did,  he  could  not,  of 
course,  possibly  have  said;  nor  perhaps  would  it  even 
have  occurred  to  him  to  ask.  The  thing  was  above  all  a 
secret,  something  to  be  preciously  concealed  from  Mother 
and  Father;  and  to  that  very  fact  it  owed  an  enormous  part 
of  its  deliciousness.  It  was  like  a  peculiarly  beautiful  trin- 
ket to  be  carried  unmentioned  in  one's  trouser-pocket, — a 
rare  stamp,  an  old  coin,  a  few  tiny  gold  links  found  trodden 
out  of  shape  on  the  path  in  the  park,  a  pebble  of  carnelian,  a 
sea  shell  distinguishable  from  all  others  by  an  unusual  spot 
or  stripe, — and,  as  if  it  were  any  one  of  these,  he  carried 
around  with  him  everywhere  a  warm  and  persistent  and 
increasingly  beautiful  sense  of  possession.  Nor  was  it  only 
a  sense  of  possession — it  was  also  a  sense  of  protection. 
It  was  as  if,  in  some  delightful  way,  his  secret  gave  him  a 
fortress,  a  wall  behind  which  he  could  retreat  into  heavenly 
seclusion.  This  was  almost  the  first  thing  he  had  noticed 
about  it — apart  from  the  oddness  of  the  thing  itself — and 
it  was  this  that  now  again,  for  the  fiftieth  time,  occurred 
to  him,  as  he  sat  in  the  little  schoolroom.  It  was  the  half 
hour  for  geography.  Miss  Buell  was  revolving  with  one 
finger,  slowly,  a  huge  terrestrial  globe  which  had  been 
placed  on  her  desk.  The  green  and  yellow  continents 
passed  and  repassed,  questions  were  asked  and  answered, 
and  now  the  little  girl  in  front  of  him,  Deirdre,  who  had  a 
funny  little  constellation  of  freckles  on  the  back  of  her 
neck,  exactly  like  the  Big  Dipper,  was  standing  up  and 

Copyright  1932,  by  Conrad  Aiken.    Reprinted  by  permission  of  Brandt  and 
Brandt,  New  York. 

93 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

telling  Miss  Buell  that  the  equator  was  the  line  that  ran 
round  the  middle. 

Miss  Buell's  face,  which  was  old  and  greyish  and  kindly, 
with  grey  stiff  curls  beside  the  cheeks,  and  eyes  that  swam 
very  brightly,  like  little  minnows,  behind  thick  glasses, 
wrinkled  itself  into  a  complication  of  amusements. 

"Ah!  I  see.  The  earth  is  wearing  a  belt,  or  a  sash.  Or 
someone  drew  a  line  round  it!" 

"Oh  no — not  that — I  mean — " 

In  the  general  laughter,  he  did  not  share,  or  only  a  very 
little.  He  was  thinking  about  the  Arctic  and  Antarctic 
regions,  which  of  course,  on  the  globe,  were  white.  Miss 
Buell  was  now  telling  them  about  the  tropics,  the  jungles, 
the  steamy  heat  of  equatorial  swamps,  where  the  birds 
and  butterflies,  and  even  the  snakes,  were  like  living  jewels. 
As  he  listened  to  these  things,  he  was  already,  with  a 
pleasant  sense  of  half-effort,  putting  his  secret  between 
himself  and  the  words.  Was  it  really  an  effort  at  all?  For 
effort  implied  something  voluntary,  and  perhaps  even 
something  one  did  not  especially  want;  whereas  this  was 
distinctly  pleasant,  and  came  almost  of  its  own  accord. 
All  he  needed  to  do  was  to  think  of  that  morning,  the  first 
one,  and  then  of  all  the  others — 

But  it  was  all  so  absurdly  simple!  It  had  amounted  to 
so  little.  It  was  nothing,  just  an  idea — and  just  why  it 
should  have  become  so  wonderful,  so  permanent,  was  a 
mystery — a  very  pleasant  one,  to  be  sure,  but  also,  in  an 
amusing  way,  foolish.  However,  without  ceasing  to  listen 
to  Miss  Buell,  who  had  now  moved  up  to  the  north  tem- 
perate zones,  he  deliberately  invited  his  memory  of  the 
first  morning.  It  was  only  a  moment  or  two  after  he  had 
waked  up — or  perhaps  the  moment  itself.  But  was  there, 
to  be  exact,  an  exact  moment?  Was  one  awake  all  at  once? 
or  was  it  gradual?  Anyway,  it  was  after  he  had  stretched 
a  lazy  hand  up  towards  the  headrail,  and  yawned,  and 
then  relaxed  again  among  his  warm  covers,  all  the  more 

94 


Conrad  Aiken 

grateful  on  a  December  morning,  that  the  thing  had 
happened.  Suddenly,  for  no  reason,  he  had  thought  of  the 
postman,  he  remembered  the  postman.  Perhaps  there  was 
nothing  so  odd  in  that.  After  all,  he  heard  the  postman 
almost  every  morning  in  his  life — his  heavy  boots  could  be 
heard  clumping  round  the  corner  at  the  top  of  the  little 
cobbled  hill-street,  and  then,  progressively  nearer,  pro- 
gressively louder,  the  double  knock  at  each  door,  the  cross- 
ings and  re-crossings  of  the  street,  till  finally  the  clumsy 
steps  came  stumbling  across  to  the  very  door,  and  the 
tremendous  knock  came  which  shook  the  house  itself. 

(Miss  Buell  was  saying  "Vast  wheat-growing  areas  in 
North  America  and  Siberia." 

Deirdre  had  for  the  moment  placed  her  left  hand  across 
the  back  of  her  neck.) 

But  on  this  particular  morning,  the  first  morning,  as  he 
lay  there  with  his  eyes  closed,  he  had  for  some  reason 
waited  for  the  postman.  He  wanted  to  hear  him  come 
round  the  corner.  And  that  was  precisely  the  joke — he 
never  did.  He  never  came.  He  never  had  come — round  the 
corner — again.  For  when  at  last  the  steps  were  heard,  they 
had  already,  he  was  quite  sure,  come  a  little  down  the  hill, 
to  the  first  house;  and  even  so,  the  steps  were  curiously 
different — they  were  softer,  they  had  a  new  secrecy  about 
them,  they  were  muffled  and  indistinct;  and  while  the 
rhythm  of  them  was  the  same,  it  now  said  a  new  thing — 
it  said  peace,  it  said  remoteness,  it  said  cold,  it  said  sleep. 
And  he  had  understood  the  situation  at  once — nothing 
could  have  seemed  simpler — there  had  been  snow  in  the 
night,  such  as  all  winter  he  had  been  longing  for;  and  it 
was  this  which  had  rendered  the  postman's  first  footsteps 
inaudible,  and  the  later  ones  faint.  Of  course!  How  lovely! 
And  even  now  it  must  be  snowing — it  was  going  to  be  a 
snowy  day — the  long  white  ragged  lines  were  drifting  and 
sifting  across  the  street,  across  the  faces  of  the  old  houses, 
whispering  and  hushing,  making  little  triangles  of  white  in 

95 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

the  corners  between  cobblestones,  seething  a  little  when 
the  wind  blew  them  over  the  ground  to  a  drifted  corner; 
and  so  it  would  be  all  day,  getting  deeper  and  deeper  and 
silenter  and  silenter. 

(Miss  Buell  was  saying  uLand  of  perpetual  snow.") 

All  this  time,  of  course  (while  he  lay  in  bed),  he  had  kept 
his  eyes  closed,  listening  to  the  nearer  progress  of  the  post- 
man, the  muffled  footsteps  thumping  and  slipping  on  the 
snow-sheathed  cobbles;  and  all  the  other  sounds — the 
double  knocks,  a  frosty  far-off  voice  or  two,  a  bell  ringing 
thinly  and  softly  as  if  under  a  sheet  of  ice — had  the  same 
slightly  abstracted  quality,  as  if  removed  by  one  degree 
from  actuality — as  if  everything  in  the  world  had  been 
insulated  by  snow.  But  when  at  last,  pleased,  he  opened 
his  eyes,  and  turned  them  towards  the  window,  to  see  for 
himself  this  long-desired  and  now  so  clearly  imagined 
miracle — what  he  saw  instead  was  brilliant  sunlight  on  a 
roof;  and  when,  astonished,  he  jumped  out  of  bed  and 
stared  down  into  the  street,  expecting  to  see  the  cobbles 
obliterated  by  the  snow,  he  saw  nothing  but  the  bare  bright 
cobbles  themselves. 

Queer,  the  effect  this  extraordinary  surprise  had  had 
upon  him — all  the  following  morning  he  had  kept  with 
him  a  sense  as  of  snow  falling  about  him,  a  secret  screen 
of  new  snow  between  himself  and  the  world.  If  he  had  not 
dreamed  such  a  thing — and  how  could  he  have  dreamed  it 
while  awake? — how  else  could  one  explain  it?  In  any  case, 
the  delusion  had  been  so  vivid  as  to  affect  his  entire  be- 
haviour. He  could  not  now  remember  whether  it  was  on 
the  first  or  the  second  morning — or  was  it  even  the  third? 
— that  his  mother  had  drawn  attention  to  some  oddness  in 
his  manner. 

"But  my  darling — "  she  had  said  at  the  breakfast 
table — "what  has  come  over  you?  You  don't  seem  to  be 
listening.  ..." 

And  how  often  that  very  thing  had  happened  since! 

96 


Conra  d  Aiken 

(Miss  Buell  was  now  asking  if  anyone  knew  the  differ- 
ence between  the  North  Pole  and  the  Magnetic  Pole. 
Deirdre  was  holding  up  her  flickering  brown  hand,  and 
he  could  see  the  four  white  dimples  that  marked  the 
knuckles.) 

Perhaps  it  hadn't  been  either  the  second  or  third  morn- 
ing— or  even  the  fourth  or  fifth.  How  could  he  be  sure? 
How  could  he  be  sure  just  when  the  delicious  progress  had 
become  clear?  Just  when  it  had  really  begun?  The  inter- 
vals weren't  very  precise.  .  .  .  All  he  now  knew  was, 
that  at  some  point  or  other — perhaps  the  second  day,  per- 
haps the  sixth — he  had  noticed  that  the  presence  of  the 
snow  was  a  little  more  insistent,  the  sound  of  it  clearer; 
and,  conversely,  the  sound  of  the  postman's  footsteps  more 
indistinct.  Not  only  could  he  not  hear  the  steps  come 
round  the  corner,  he  could  not  even  hear  them  at  the  first 
house.  It  was  below  the  first  house  that  he  heard  them; 
and  then,  a  few  days  later,  it  was  below  the  second  house 
that  he  heard  them;  and  a  few  days  later  again,  below  the 
third.  Gradually,  gradually,  the  snow  was  becoming 
heavier,  the  sound  of  its  seething  louder,  the  cobblestones 
more  and  more  muffled.  When  he  found,  each  morning, 
on  going  to  the  window,  after  the  ritual  of  listening,  that 
the  roofs  and  cobbles  were  as  bare  as  ever,  it  made  no 
difference.  This  was,  after  all,  only  what  he  had  expected. 
It  was  even  what  pleased  him,  what  rewarded  him:  the 
thing  was  his  own,  belonged  to  no  one  else.  No  one  else 
knew  about  it,  not  even  his  mother  and  father.  There, 
outside,  were  the  bare  cobbles;  and  here,  inside,  was  the 
snow.  Snow  growing  heavier  each  day,  muffling  the  world, 
hiding  the  ugly,  and  deadening  increasingly — above  all — 
the  steps  of  the  postman. 

"But  my  darling — "  she  had  said  at  the  luncheon 
table — "what  has  come  over  you?  You  don't  seem  to 
listen  when  people  speak  to  you.  That's  the  third  time  I've 
asked  you  to  pass  your  plate.  ,  .  ." 

97 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

How  was  one  to  explain  this  to  Mother?  or  to  Father? 
There  was,  of  course,  nothing  to  be  done  about  it:  nothing. 
All  one  could  do  was  to  laugh  embarrassedly,  pretend  to 
be  a  little  ashamed,  apologize,  and  take  a  sudden  and 
somewhat  disingenuous  interest  in  what  was  being  done 
or  said.  The  cat  had  stayed  out  all  night.  He  had  a  curi- 
ous swelling  on  his  left  cheek — perhaps  somebody  had 
kicked  him,  or  a  stone  had  struck  him.  Mrs.  Kempton 
was  or  was  not  coming  to  tea.  The  house  was  going  to  be 
house  cleaned,  or  "turned  out,"  on  Wednesday  instead  of 
Friday.  A  new  lamp  was  provided  for  his  evening  work — 
perhaps  it  was  eyestrain  which  accounted  for  this  new  and 
so  peculiar  vagueness  of  his — Mother  was  looking  at  him 
with  amusement  as  she  said  this,  but  with  something  else 
as  well.  A  new  lamp?  A  new  lamp.  Yes  Mother,  No 
Mother,  Yes  Mother.  School  is  going  very  well.  The 
geometry  is  very  easy.  The  history  is  very  dull.  The 
geography  is  very  interesting — particularly  when  it  takes 
one  to  the  North  Pole.  Why  the  North  Pole?  Oh,  well,  it 
would  be  fun  to  be  an  explorer.  Another  Peary  or  Scott  or 
Shackleton.  And  then  abruptly  he  found  his  interest  in 
the  talk  at  an  end,  stared  at  the  pudding  on  his  plate, 
listened,  waited,  and  began  once  more — ah  how  heavenly, 
too,  the  first  beginnings — to  hear  or  feel — for  could  he 
actually  hear  it? — the  silent  snow,  the  secret  snow. 

(Miss  Buell  was  telling  them  about  the  search  for  the 
Northwest  Passage,  about  Hendrik  Hudson,  the  Half 
Moon.) 

This  had  been,  indeed,  the  only  distressing  feature  of  the 
new  experience:  the  fact  that  it  so  increasingly  had  brought 
him  into  a  kind  of  mute  misunderstanding,  or  even  con- 
flict, with  his  father  and  mother.  It  was  as  if  he  were  trying 
to  lead  a  double  life.  On  the  one  hand  he  had  to  be  Paul 
Hasleman,  and  keep  up  the  appearance  of  being  that  per- 
son— dress,  wash,  and  answer  intelligently  when  spoken 
to — ;  on  the  other,  he  had  to  explore  this  new  world  which 

98 


Conrad  Aiken 

had  been  opened  to  him.  Nor  could  there  be  the  slightest 
doubt — not  the  slightest — that  the  new  world  was  the 
profounder  and  more  wonderful  of  the  two.  It  was  ir- 
resistible. It  was  miraculous.  Its  beauty  was  simply 
beyond  anything — beyond  speech  as  beyond  thought — 
utterly  incommunicable.  But  how  then,  between  the  two 
worlds,  of  which  he  was  thus  constantly  aware,  was  he  to 
keep  a  balance?  One  must  get  up,  one  must  go  to  break- 
fast, one  must  talk  with  Mother,  go  to  school,  do  one's 
lessons — and,  in  all  this,  try  not  to  appear  too  much  of  a 
fool.  But  if  all  the  while  one  was  also  trying  to  extract  the 
full  deliciousness  of  another  and  quite  separate  existence, 
one  which  could  not  easily  (if  at  all)  be  spoken  of — how 
was  one  to  manage?  How  was  one  to  explain?  Would  it 
be  safe  to  explain?  Would  it  be  absurd?  Would  it  merely 
mean  that  he  would  get  into  some  obscure  kind  of  trouble? 
These  thoughts  came  and  went,  came  and  went,  as 
softly  and  secretly  as  the  snow;  they  were  not  precisely  a 
disturbance,  perhaps  they  were  even  a  pleasure;  he  liked 
to  have  them;  their  presence  was  something  almost  pal- 
pable, something  he  could  stroke  with  his  hand,  without 
closing  his  eyes,  and  without  ceasing  to  see  Miss  Buell 
and  the  school-room  and  the  globe  and  the  freckles  on 
Deirdre's  neck;  nevertheless  he  did  in  a  sense  cease  to  see, 
or  to  see  the  obvious  external  world,  and  substituted  for  this 
vision  the  vision  of  snow,  the  sound  of  snow,  and  the  slow, 
almost  soundless,  approach  of  the  postman.  Yesterday,  it 
had  been  only  at  the  sixth  house  that  the  postman  had 
become  audible;  the  snow  was  much  deeper  now,  it  was 
falling  more  swiftly  and  heavily,  the  sound  of  its  seething 
was  more  distinct,  more  soothing,  more  persistent.  And 
this  morning,  it  had  been — as  nearly  as  he  could  figure — 
just  above  the  seventh  house — perhaps  only  a  step  or  two 
above:  at  most,  he  had  heard  two  or  three  footsteps  before 
the  knock  had  sounded.  .  .  .  And  with  each  such  narrow- 
ing of  the  sphere,  each  nearer  approach  of  the  limit  at 

99 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

which  the  postman  was  first  audible,  it  was  odd  how 
sharply  was  increased  the  amount  of  illusion  which  had 
to  be  carried  into  the  ordinary  business  of  daily  life.  Each 
day,  it  was  harder  to  get  out  of  bed,  to  go  to  the  window, 
to  look  out  at  the — as  always — perfectly  empty  and  snow- 
less  street.  Each  day  it  was  more  difficult  to  go  through 
the  perfunctory  motions  of  greeting  Mother  and  Father  at 
breakfast,  to  reply  to  their  questions,  to  put  his  books  to- 
gether and  go  to  school.  And  at  school,  how  extraordinar- 
ily hard  to  conduct  with  success  simultaneously  the  public 
life  and  the  life  that  was  secret.  There  were  times  when  he 
longed — positively  ached — to  tell  everyone  about  it — to 
burst  out  with  it — only  to  be  checked  almost  at  once  by  a 
far-off  feeling  as  of  some  faint  absurdity  which  was  in- 
herent in  it — but  was  it  absurd? — and  more  importantly 
by  a  sense  of  mysterious  power  in  his  very  secrecy.  Yes: 
it  must  be  kept  secret.  That,  more  and  more,  became  clear. 
At  whatever  cost  to  himself,  whatever  pain  to  others — 

(Miss  Buell  looked  straight  at  him,  smiling,  and  said, 
"Perhaps  we'll  ask  Paul.  Pm  sure  Paul  will  come  out  of 
his  day-dream  long  enough  to  be  able  to  tell  us.  Won't 
you,  Paul."  He  rose  slowly  from  his  chair,  resting  one 
hand  on  the  brightly  varnished  desk,  and  deliberately 
stared  through  the  snow  towards  the  blackboard.  It  was 
an  effort,  but  it  was  amusing  to  make  it.  "Yes,"  he  said 
slowly,  "it  was  what  we  now  call  the  Hudson  River.  This 
he  thought  to  be  the  Northwest  Passage.  He  was  dis- 
appointed." He  sat  down  again,  and  as  he  did  so  Deirdre 
half  turned  in  her  chair  and  gave  him  a  shy  smile,  of 
approval  and  admiration.) 

At  whatever  pain  to  others. 

This  part  of  it  was  very  puzzling,  very  puzzling.  Mother 
was  very  nice,  and  so  was  Father.  Yes,  that  was  all  true 
enough.  He  wanted  to  be  nice  to  them,  to  tell  them  every- 
thing— and  yet,  was  it  really  wrong  of  him  to  want  to  have 
a  secret  place  of  his  own? 

100 


Conrad  A?ken 

At  bedtime,  the  night  before,  Mother  had  said,  "If  this 
goes  on,  my  lad,  we'll  have  to  see  a  doctor,  we  will!  We 
can't  have  our  boy — "  But  what  was  it  she  had  said? 
"  Live  in  another  world  "  ?  "  Live  so  far  away  "  ?  The  word 
"far"  had  been  in  it,  he  was  sure,  and  then  Mother  had 
taken  up  a  magazine  again  and  laughed  a  little,  but  with 
an  expression  which  wasn't  mirthful.  He  had  felt  sorry 
for  her.  .  .  . 

The  bell  rang  for  dismissal.  The  sound  came  to  him 
through  long  curved  parallels  of  falling  snow.  He  saw 
Deirdre  rise,  and  had  himself  risen  almost  as  soon — but 
not  quite  as  soon — as  she. 

II 

On  the  walk  homeward,  which  was  timeless,  it  pleased 
him  to  see  through  the  accompaniment,  or  counterpoint,  of 
snow,  the  items  of  mere  externality  on  his  way.  There 
were  many  kinds  of  brick  in  the  sidewalks,  and  laid  in 
many  kinds  of  pattern.  The  garden  walls  too  were  various, 
some  of  wooden  palings,  some  of  plaster,  some  of  stone. 
Twigs  of  bushes  leaned  over  the  walls:  the  little  hard  green 
winter-buds  of  lilac,  on  grey  stems,  sheathed  and  fat; 
other  branches  very  thin  and  fine  and  black  and  desiccated. 
Dirty  sparrows  huddled  in  the  bushes,  as  dull  in  colour 
as  dead  fruit  left  in  leafless  trees.  A  single  starling  creaked 
on  a  weather  vane.  In  the  gutter,  beside  a  drain,  was  a 
scrap  of  torn  and  dirty  newspaper,  caught  in  a  little  delta 
of  filth:  the  word  ECZEMA  appeared  in  large  capitals,  and 
below  it  was  a  letter  from  Mrs.  Amelia  D.  Cravath,  2100 
Pine  Street,  Fort  Worth,  Texas,  to  the  effect  that  after 
being  a  sufferer  for  years  she  had  been  cured  by  Caley's 
Ointment.  In  the  little  delta,  beside  the  fan-shaped  and 
deeply  runnelled  continent  of  brown  mud,  were  lost  twigs, 
descended  from  their  parent  trees,  dead  matches,  a  rusty 
horse-chestnut  burr,  a  small  concentration  of  sparkling 
gravel  on  the  lip  of  the  sewer,  a  fragment  of  egg-shell,  a 

101 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

streak  of  yellow  sawdust  which  had  been  wet  and  now  was 
dry  and  congealed,  a  brown  pebble,  and  a  broken  feather. 
Further  on  was  a  cement  sidewalk,  ruled  into  geometrical 
parallelograms,  with  a  brass  inlay  at  one  end  commemo- 
rating the  contractors  who  had  laid  it,  and,  halfway  across, 
an  irregular  and  random  series  of  dog-tracks,  immortalized 
in  synthetic  stone.  He  knew  these  well,  and  always  stepped 
on  them;  to  cover  the  little  hollows  with  his  own  foot  had 
always  been  a  queer  pleasure;  today  he  did  it  once  more, 
but  perfunctorily  and  detachedly,  all  the  while  thinking 
of  something  else.  That  was  a  dog,  a  long  time  ago,  who 
had  made  a  mistake  and  walked  on  the  cement  while  it 
was  still  wet.  He  had  probably  wagged  his  tail,  but  that 
hadn't  been  recorded.  Now,  Paul  Hasleman,  aged  twelve, 
on  his  way  home  from  school,  crossed  the  same  river,  which 
in  the  meantime  had  frozen  into  rock.  Homeward  through 
the  snow,  the  snow  falling  in  bright  sunshine.  Homeward? 

Then  came  the  gateway  with  the  two  posts  surmounted 
by  egg-shaped  stones  which  had  been  cunningly  balanced 
on  their  ends,  as  if  by  Columbus,  and  mortared  in  the  very 
act  of  balance:  a  source  of  perpetual  wonder.  On  the  brick 
wall  just  beyond,  the  letter  H  had  been  stenciled,  pre- 
sumably for  some  purpose.  H?  H. 

The  green  hydrant,  with  a  little  green-painted  chain 
attached  to  the  brass  screw-cap. 

The  elm  tree,  with  the  great  grey  wound  in  the  bark,  kid- 
ney-shaped, into  which  he  always  put  his  hand — to  feel 
the  cold  but  living  wood.  The  injury,  he  had  been  sure, 
was  due  to  the  gnawings  of  a  tethered  horse.  But  now  it 
deserved  only  a  passing  palm,  a  merely  tolerant  eye.  There 
were  more  important  things.  Miracles.  Beyond  the 
thoughts  of  trees,  mere  elms.  Beyond  the  thoughts  of 
sidewalks,  mere  stone,  mere  brick,  mere  cement.  Beyond 
the  thoughts  even  of  his  own  shoes,  which  trod  these  side- 
walks obediently,  bearing  a  burden — far  above — of  elab- 
orate mystery.  He  watched  them.  They  were  not  very 

102 


Conrad  Aiken 

well  polished;  he  had  neglected  them,  for  a  very  good 
reason:  they  were  one  of  the  many  parts  of  the  increasing 
difficulty  of  the  daily  return  to  daily  life,  the  morning 
struggle.  To  get  up,  having  at  last  opened  one's  eyes,  to 
go  to  the  window,  and  discover  no  snow,  to  wash,  to  dress, 
to  descend  the  curving  stairs  to  breakfast — 

At  whatever  pain  to  others,  nevertheless,  one  must  per- 
severe in  severance,  since  the  incommunicability  of  the 
experience  demanded  it.  It  was  desirable  of  course  to  be 
kind  to  Mother  and  Father,  especially  as  they  seemed  to 
be  worried,  but  it  was  also  desirable  to  be  resolute.  If 
they  should  decide — as  appeared  likely — to  consult  the 
doctor,  Doctor  Howells,  and  have  Paul  inspected,  his 
heart  listened  to  through  a  kind  of  dictaphone,  his  lungs, 
his  stomach — well,  that  was  all  right.  He  would  go 
through  with  it.  He  would  give  them  answer  for  question, 
too — perhaps  such  answers  as  they  hadn't  expected?  No. 
That  would  never  do.  For  the  secret  world  must,  at  all 
costs,  be  preserved. 

The  bird-house  in  the  apple-tree  was  empty — it  was  the 
wrong  time  of  year  for  wrens.  The  little  round  black  door 
had  lost  its  pleasure.  The  wrens  were  enjoying  other 
houses,  other  nests,  remoter  trees.  But  this  too  was  a 
notion  which  he  only  vaguely  and  grazingly  entertained — 
as  if,  for  the  moment,  he  merely  touched  an  edge  of  it; 
there  was  something  further  on,  which  was  already  assum- 
ing a  sharper  importance;  something  which  already  teased 
at  the  corners  of  his  eyes,  teasing  also  at  the  corner  of  his 
mind.  It  was  funny  to  think  that  he  so  wanted  this,  so 
awaited  it — and  yet  found  himself  enjoying  this  momen- 
tary dalliance  with  the  bird-house,  as  if  for  a  quite  deliber- 
ate postponement  and  enhancement  of  the  approaching 
pleasure.  He  was  aware  of  his  delay,  of  his  smiling  and 
detached  and  now  almost  uncomprehending  gaze  at  the 
little  bird-house;  he  knew  what  he  was  going  to  look  at 
next:  it  was  his  own  little  cobbled  hill-street,  his  own 

103 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

house,  the  little  river  at  the  bottom  of  the  hill,  the  grocer's 
shop  with  the  cardboard  man  in  the  window — and  now, 
thinking  of  all  this,  he  turned  his  head,  still  smiling,  and 
looking  quickly  right  and  left  through  the  snow-laden 
sunlight. 

And  the  mist  of  snow,  as  he  had  foreseen,  was  still  on 
it — a  ghost  of  snow  falling  in  the  bright  sunlight,  softly 
and  steadily  floating  and  turning  and  pausing,  soundlessly 
meeting  the  snow  that  covered,  as  with  a  transparent 
mirage,  the  bare  bright  cobbles.  He  loved  it — he  stood 
still  and  loved  it.  Its  beauty  was  paralyzing — beyond  all 
words,  all  experience,  all  dream.  No  fairy-story  he  had 
ever  read  could  be  compared  with  it — none  had  ever  given 
him  this  extraordinary  combination  of  ethereal  loveliness 
with  a  something  else,  unnameable,  which  was  just  faintly 
and  deliciously  terrifying.  What  was  this  thing?  As  he 
thought  of  it,  he  looked  upward  toward  his  own  bedroom 
window,  which  was  open — and  it  was  as  if  he  looked 
straight  into  the  room  and  saw  himself  lying  half  awake 
in  his  bed.  There  he  was — at  this  very  instant  he  was  still 
perhaps  actually  there — more  truly  there  than  standing 
here  at  the  edge  of  the  cobbled  hill-street,  with  one  hand 
lifted  to  shade  his  eyes  against  the  snow-sun.  Had  he 
indeed  ever  left  his  room,  in  all  this  time?  since  that  very 
first  morning?  Was  the  whole  progress  still  being  enacted 
there,  was  it  still  the  same  morning,  and  himself  not  yet 
wholly  awake?  And  even  now,  had  the  postman  not  yet 
come  round  the  corner?  .  .  . 

This  idea  amused  him,  and  automatically,  as  he  thought 
of  it,  he  turned  his  head  and  looked  toward  the  top  of  the 
hill.  There  was,  of  course,  nothing  there — nothing  and  no 
one.  The  street  was  empty  and  quiet.  And  all  the  more 
because  of  its  emptiness  it  occurred  to  him  to  count  the 
houses — a  thing  which,  oddly  enough,  he  hadn't  before 
thought  of  doing.  Of  course,  he  had  known  there  weren't 
many — many,  that  is,  on  his  own  side  of  the  street,  which 

104 


Conrad  Aiken 

were  the  ones  that  figured  in  the  postman's  progress — but 
nevertheless  it  came  to  him  as  something  of  a  shock  to  find 
that  there  were  precisely  six,  above  his  own  house — his 
own  house  was  the  seventh. 

Six! 

Astonished,  he  looked  at  his  own  house — looked  at  the 
door,  on  which  was  the  number  thirteen — and  then  real- 
ized that  the  whole  thing  was  exactly  and  logically  and 
absurdly  what  he  ought  to  have  known.  Just  the  same, 
the  realization  gave  him  abruptly,  and  even  a  little  fright- 
eningly,  a  sense  of  hurry.  He  was  being  hurried — he  was 
being  rushed.  For — he  knit  his  brows — he  couldn't  be 
mistaken — it  was  just  above  the  seventh  house,  his  own 
house,  that  the  postman  had  first  been  audible  this  very 
morning.  But  in  that  case — in  that  case — did  it  mean  that 
tomorrow  he  would  hear  nothing?  The  knock  he  had  heard 
must  have  been  the  knock  of  their  own  door.  Did  it  mean — 
and  this  was  an  idea  which  gave  him  a  really  extraordi- 
nary feeling  of  surprise — that  he  would  never  hear  the 
postman  again? — that  tomorrow  morning  the  postman 
would  already  have  passed  the  house,  in  a  snow  by  then 
so  deep  as  to  render  his  footsteps  completely  inaudible? 
That  he  would  have  made  his  approach  down  the  snow- 
filled  street  so  soundlessly,  so  secretly,  that  he,  Paul 
Hasleman,  there  lying  in  bed,  would  not  have  waked  in 
time,  or,  waking,  would  have  heard  nothing? 

But  how  could  that  be?  Unless  even  the  knocker  should 
be  muffled  in  the  snow — frozen  tight,  perhaps?  .  .  .  But 
in  that  case — 

A  vague  feeling  of  disappointment  came  over  him;  a 
vague  sadness,  as  if  he  felt  himself  deprived  of  something 
which  he  had  long  looked  forward  to,  something  much 
prized.  After  all  this,  all  this  beautiful  progress,  the  slow 
delicious  advance  of  the  postman  through  the  silent  and 
secret  snow,  the  knock  creeping  closer  each  day,  and  the 
footsteps  nearer,  the  audible  compass  of  the  world  thus 

105 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

daily  narrowed,  narrowed,  narrowed,  as  the  snow  sooth- 
ingly and  beautifully  encroached  and  deepened,  after  all 
this,  was  he  to  be  defrauded  of  the  one  thing  he  had  so 
wanted — to  be  able  to  count,  as  it  were,  the  last  two  or 
three  solemn  footsteps,  as  they  finally  approached  his  own 
door?  Was  it  all  going  to  happen,  at  the  end,  so  suddenly? 
or  indeed,  had  it  already  happened?  with  no  slow  and  sub- 
tle.gradations  of  menace,  in  which  he  could  luxuriate? 

He  gazed  upward  again,  toward  his  own  window  which 
flashed  in  the  sun:  and  this  time  almost  with  a  feeling  that 
it  would  be  better  if  he  were  still  in  bed,  in  that  room;  for  in 
that  case  this  must  still  be  the  first  morning,  and  there 
would  be  six  more  mornings  to  come — or,  for  that  matter, 
seven  or  eight  or  nine — how  could  he  be  sure? — or  even 
more. 

Ill 

After  supper,  the  inquisition  began.  He  stood  before 
the  doctor,  under  the  lamp,  and  submitted  silently  to  the 
usual  thumpings  and  tappings. 

"Now  will  you  please  say  'Ah!'?" 

"Ah!" 

"Now  again  please,  if  you  don't  mind." 

"Ah." 

"Say  it  slowly,  and  hold  it  if  you  can — " 

"Ah-h-h-h-h-h— " 

"Good." 

How  silly  all  this  was.  As  if  it  had  anything  to  do  with 
his  throat!  Or  his  heart  or  lungs ! 

Relaxing  his  mouth,  of  which  the  corners,  after  all  this 
absurd  stretching,  felt  uncomfortable,  he  avoided  the  doc- 
tor's eyes,  and  stared  towards  the  fireplace,  past  his 
mother's  feet  (in  grey  slippers)  which  projected  from  the 
green  chair,  and  his  father's  feet  (in  brown  slippers)  which 
stood  neatly  side  by  side  on  the  hearth  rug. 

"Hm.    There  is  certainly  nothing  wrong  there  .  .  ." 

106 


Con rad  Aiken 

He  felt  the  doctor's  eyes  fixed  upon  him,  and,  as  if 
merely  to  be  polite,  returned  the  look,  but  with  a  feeling 
of  justifiable  evasiveness. 

"Now,  young  man,  tell  me, — do  you  feel  all  right?" 

"Yes,  sir,  quite  all  right." 

"No  headaches?  no  dizziness?" 

"No,  I  don't  think  so." 

"Let  me  see.  Let's  get  a  book,  if  you  don't  mind — yes, 
thank  you,  that  will  do  splendidly — and  now,  Paul,  if 
you'll  just  read  it,  holding  it  as  you  would  normally  hold 
it—" 

He  took  the  book  and  read: 

"And  another  praise  have  I  to  tell  for  this  the  city  our 
mother,  the  gift  of  a  great  god,  a  glory  of  the  land  most 
high;  the  might  of  horses,  the  might  of  young  horses,  the 
might  of  the  sea.  .  .  .  For  thou,  son  of  Cronus,  our  lord 
Poseidon,  hast  throned  herein  this  pride,  since  in  these 
roads  first  thou  didst  show  forth  the  curb  that  cures 
the  rage  of  steeds.  And  the  shapely  oar,  apt  to  men's 
hands,  hath  a  wondrous  speed  on  the  brine,  following  the 
hundred-footed  Nereids.  .  .  .  O  land  that  art  praised 
above  all  lands,  now  is  it  for  thee  to  make  those  bright 
praises  seen  in  deeds." 

He  stopped,  tentatively,  and  lowered  the  heavy  book. 

"No — as  I  thought — there  is  certainly  no  superficial 
sign  of  eye-strain." 

Silence  thronged  the  room,  and  he  was  aware  of  the 
focused  scrutiny  of  the  three  people  who  confronted 
him.  .  .  . 

"We  could  have  his  eyes  examined — but  I  believe  it  is 
something  else." 

"What  could  it  be?"  This  was  his  father's  voice. 

"It's  only  this  curious  absent-mindedness — "  This  was 
his  mother's  voice. 

In  the  presence  of  the  doctor,  they  both  seemed  irritat- 
ingly  apologetic. 

107 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

"  I  believe  it  is  something  else.  Now  Paul — I  would  like 
very  much  to  ask  you  a  question  or  two.  You  will  answer 
them,  won't  you — you  know  I'm  an  old,  old  friend  of 
yours,  eh?  That's  right!  .  .  ." 

His  back  was  thumped  twice  by  the  doctor's  fat  fist, — 
then  the  doctor  was  grinning  at  him  with  false  amiability, 
while  with  one  finger-nail  he  was  scratching  the  top  button 
of  his  waistcoat.  Beyond  the  doctor's  shoulder  was  the 
fire,  the  fingers  of  flame  making  light  prestidigitation 
against  the  sooty  fireback,  the  soft  sound  of  their  random 
flutter  the  only  sound. 

"I  would  like  to  know — is  there  anything  that  worries 
you?" 

The  doctor  was  again  smiling,  his  eyelids  low  against  the 
little  black  pupils,  in  each  of  which  was  a  tiny  white  bead 
of  light.  Why  answer  him?  why  answer  him  at  all?  "At 
whatever  pain  to  others" — but  it  was  all  a  nuisance,  this 
necessity  for  resistance,  this  necessity  for  attention:  it 
was  as  if  one  had  been  stood  up  on  a  brilliantly  lighted 
stage,  under  a  great  round  blaze  of  spotlight;  as  if  one  were 
merely  a  trained  seal,  or  a  performing  dog,  or  a  fish,  dipped 
out  of  an  aquarium  and  held  up  by  the  tail.  It  would  serve 
them  right  if  he  were  merely  to  bark  or  growl.  And  mean- 
while, to  miss  these  last  few  precious  hours,  these  hours  of 
which  each  minute  was  more  beautiful  than  the  last,  more 
menacing — ?  He  still  looked,  as  if  from  a  great  distance, 
at  the  beads  of  light  in  the  doctor's  eyes,  at  the  fixed  false 
smile,  and  then,  beyond,  once  more  at  his  mother's  slip- 
pers, his  father's  slippers,  the  soft  flutter  of  the  fire.  Even 
here,  even  amongst  these  hostile  presences,  and  in  this 
arranged  light,  he  could  see  the  snow,  he  could  hear  it — it 
was  in  the  corners  of  the  room,  where  the  shadow  was 
deepest,  under  the  sofa,  behind  the  half-opened  door  which 
led  to  the  dining-room.  It  was  gentler  here,  softer,  its 
seethe  the  quietest  of  whispers,  as  if,  in  deference  to  a 
drawing-room,  it  had  quite  deliberately  put  on  its  "man- 

108 


Conrad  Aiken 

ners";  it  kept  itself  out  of  sight,  obliterated  itself,  but 
distinctly  with  an  air  of  saying,  "Ah,  but  just  waiti  Wait 
till  we  are  alone  together!  Then  I  will  begin  to  tell  you 
something  new!  Something  white!  something  cold!  some- 
thing sleepy!  something  of  cease,  and  peace,  and  the  long 
bright  curve  of  space!  Tell  them  to  go  away.  Banish  them. 
Refuse  to  speak.  Leave  them,  go  upstairs  to  your  room, 
turn  out  the  light  and  get  into  bed — I  will  go  with  you, 
I  will  be  waiting  for  you,  I  will  tell  you  a  better  story  than 
Little  Kay  of  the  Skates,  or  The  Snow  Ghost — I  will 
surround  your  bed,  I  will  close  the  windows,  pile  a  deep 
drift  against  the  door,  so  that  none  will  ever  again  be  able 
to  enter.  Speak  to  them!  .  .  ."  It  seemed  as  if  the  little 
hissing  voice  came  from  a  slow  white  spiral  of  falling 
flakes  in  the  corner  by  the  front  window — but  he  could 
not  be  sure.  He  felt  himself  smiling,  then,  and  said  to  the 
doctor,  but  without  looking  at  him,  looking  beyond  him 
still— 

"Oh  no,  I  think  not—" 

"But  are  you  sure,  my  boy?" 

His  father's  voice  came  softly  and  coldly  then — the 
familiar  voice  of  silken  warning.  .  .  . 

"You  needn't  answer  at  once,  Paul — remember  we're 
trying  to  help  you — think  it  over  and  be  quite  sure,  won't 
you?" 

He  felt  himself  smiling  again,  at  the  notion  of  being 
quite  sure.  What  a  joke!  As  if  he  weren't  so  sure  that  re- 
assurance was  no  longer  necessary,  and  all  this  cross- 
examination  a  ridiculous  farce,  a  grotesque  parody!  What 
could  they  know  about  it?  these  gross  intelligences,  these 
humdrum  minds  so  bound  to  the  usual,  the  ordinary? 
Impossible  to  tell  them  about  it!  Why,  even  now,  even 
now,  with  the  proof  so  abundant,  so  formidable,  so  im- 
minent, so  appallingly  present  here  in  this  very  room, 
could  they  believe  it? — could  even  his  mother  believe  it? 
No — it  was  only  too  plain  that  if  anything  were  said  about 

109 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

it,  the  merest  hint  given,  they  would  be  incredulous — 
they  would  laugh — they  would  say  " absurd!" — think 
things  about  him  which  weren't  true.  .  .  . 

"Why  no,  I'm  not  worried — why  should  I  be?" 

He  looked  then  straight  at  the  doctor's  low-lidded  eyes, 
looked  from  one  of  them  to  the  other,  from  one  bead  of 
light  to  the  other,  and  gave  a  little  laugh. 

The  doctor  seemed  to  be  disconcerted  by  this.  He  drew 
back  in  his  chair,  resting  a  fat  white  hand  on  either  knee. 
The  smile  faded  slowly  from  his  face. 

"Well,  Paul!"  he  said,  and  paused  gravely,  "I'm  afraid 
you  don't  take  this  quite  seriously  enough.  I  think  you 
perhaps  don't  quite  realize — don't  quite  realize — "  He 
took  a  deep  quick  breath,  and  turned,  as  if  helplessly,  at  a 
loss  for  words,  to  the  others.  But  Mother  and  Father  were 
both  silent — no  help  was  forthcoming. 

"You  must  surely  know,  be  aware,  that  you  have  not 
been  quite  yourself,  of  late?  don't  you  know  that?  .  .  ." 

It  was  amusing  to  watch  the  doctor's  renewed  attempt 
at  a  smile,  a  queer  disorganized  look,  as  of  confidential 
embarrassment. 

"I  feel  all  right,  sir,"  he  said,  and  again  gave  the  little 
laugh. 

"And  we're  trying  to  help  you."  The  doctor's  tone 
sharpened. 

"Yes  sir,  I  know.  But  why?  I'm  all  right.  I'm  just 
thinking,  that's  all." 

His  mother  made  a  quick  movement  forward,  resting  a 
hand  on  the  back  of  the  doctor's  chair. 

"Thinking?"  she  said.    "But  my  dear,  about  what?" 

This  was  a  direct  challenge — and  would  have  to  be 
directly  met.  But  before  he  met  it,  he  looked  again  into  the 
corner  by  the  door,  as  if  for  reassurance.  He  smiled  again 
at  what  he  saw,  at  what  he  heard.  The  little  spiral  was 
still  there,  still  softly  whirling,  like  the  ghost  of  a  white 
kitten  chasing  the  ghost  of  a  white  tail,  and  making  as 

no 


Conrad  Aiken 

it  did  so  the  faintest  of  whispers.  It  was  all  right!  If  only 
he  could  remain  firm,  everything  was  going  to  be  all 
right. 

"Oh,  about  anything,  about  nothing, — you  know  the 
way  you  do!" 

"You  mean — day-dreaming?" 

"Oh,  no— thinking!" 

"But  thinking  about  what?" 

"Anything." 

He  laughed  a  third  time — but  this  time,  happening  to 
glance  upward  towards  his  mother's  face,  he  was  appalled 
at  the  effect  his  laughter  seemed  to  have  upon  her.  Her 
mouth  had  opened  in  an  expression  of  horror.  .  .  .  This 
was  too  bad!  Unfortunate!  He  had  known  it  would  cause 
pain,  of  course — but  he  hadn't  expected  it  to  be  quite  so 
bad  as  this.  Perhaps — perhaps  if  he  just  gave  them  a  tiny 
gleaming  hint — ? 

"About  the  snow,"  he  said. 

"What  on  earth!"  This  was  his  father's  voice.  The 
brown  slippers  came  a  step  nearer  on  the  hearth-rug. 

"But  my  dear,  what  do  you  mean!"  This  was  his 
mother's  voice. 

The  doctor  merely  stared. 

"Just  snow,  that's  all.   I  like  to  think  about  it." 

"Tell  us  about  it,  my  boy." 

"But  that's  all  it  is.  There's  nothing  to  tell.  You  know 
what  snow  is?" 

This  he  said  almost  angrily,  for  he  felt  that  they  were 
trying  to  corner  him.  He  turned  sideways  so  as  no  longer 
to  face  the  doctor,  and  the  better  to  see  the  inch  of  black- 
ness between  the  window-sill  and  the  lowered  curtain, — 
the  cold  inch  of  beckoning  and  delicious  night.  At  once  he 
felt  better,  more  assured. 

"Mother — can  I  go  to  bed,  now,  please?  I've  got  a  head- 
ache." 

"But  I  thought  you  said — " 

in 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

"It's  just  come.  It's  all  these  questions — !  Can  I, 
mother?" 

"  You  can  go  as  soon  as  the  doctor  has  finished." 

"Don't  you  think  this  thing  ought  to  be  gone  into  thor- 
oughly, and  now?"  This  was  Father's  voice.  The  brown 
slippers  again  came  a  step  nearer,  the  voice  was  the  well- 
known  "punishment"  voice,  resonant  and  cruel. 

"Oh,  what's  the  use,  Norman — " 

Quite  suddenly,  everyone  was  silent.  And  without  pre- 
cisely facing  them,  nevertheless  he  was  aware  that  all  three 
of  them  were  watching  him  with  an  extraordinary  inten- 
sity— staring  hard  at  him — as  if  he  had  done  something 
monstrous,  or  was  himself  some  kind  of  monster.  He 
could  hear  the  soft  irregular  flutter  of  the  flames;  the  cluck- 
click-cluck-click  of  the  clock;  far  and  faint,  two  sudden 
spurts  of  laughter  from  the  kitchen,  as  quickly  cut  off  as 
begun;  a  murmur  of  water  in  the  pipes;  and  then,  the 
silence  seemed  to  deepen,  to  spread  out,  to  become  world- 
long  and  worldwide,  to  become  timeless  and  shapeless,  and 
to  center  inevitably  and  rightly,  with  a  slow  and  sleepy 
but  enormous  concentration  of  all  power,  on  the  beginning 
of  a  new  sound.  What  this  new  sound  was  going  to  be,  he 
knew  perfectly  well.  It  might  begin  with  a  hiss,  but  it 
would  end  with  a  roar — there  was  no  time  to  lose — he  must 
escape.  It  mustn't  happen  here — 

Without  another  word,  he  turned  and  ran  up  the  stairs. 

IV 

Not  a  moment  too  soon.  The  darkness  was  coming  in 
long  white  waves.  A  prolonged  sibilance  filled  the  night — 
a  great  seamless  seethe  of  wild  influence  went  abruptly 
across  it — a  cold  low  humming  shook  the  windows.  He 
shut  the  door  and  flung  off  his  clothes  in  the  dark.  The 
bare  black  floor  was  like  a  little  raft  tossed  in  waves  of 
snow,  almost  overwhelmed,  washed  under  whitely,  up 
again,  smothered  in  curled  billows  of  feather.  The  snow 

112 


Conrad  Aiken 

was  laughing:  it  spoke  from  all  sides  at  once:  it  pressed 
closer  to  him  as  he  ran  and  jumped  exulting  into  his  bed. 

"Listen  to  us!"  it  said.  "Listen!  We  have  come  to  tell 
you  the  story  we  told  you  about.  You  remember?  Lie 
down.  Shut  your  eyes,  now — you  will  no  longer  see 
much — in  this  white  darkness  who  could  see,  or  want  to 
see?  We  will  take  the  place  of  everything.  .  .  .  Listen — " 

A  beautiful  varying  dance  of  snow  began  at  the  front  of 
the  room,  came  forward  and  then  retreated,  flattened  out 
toward  the  floor,  then  rose  fountain-like  to  the  ceiling, 
swayed,  recruited  itself  from  a  new  stream  of  flakes  which 
poured  laughing  in  through  the  humming  window,  ad- 
vanced again,  lifted  long  white  arms.  It  said  peace,  it  said 
remoteness,  it  said  cold — it  said — 

But  then  a  gash  of  horrible  Hght  fell  brutally  across  the 
room  from  the  opening  door — the  snow  drew  back  hiss- 
ing— something  alien  had  come  into  the  room — something 
hostile.  This  thing  rushed  at  him,  clutched  at  him,  shook 
him — and  he  was  not  merely  horrified,  he  was  filled  with 
such  a  loathing  as  he  had  never  known.  What  was  this? 
this  cruel  disturbance?  this  act  of  anger  and  hate?  It  was 
as  if  he  had  to  reach  up  a  hand  toward  another  world  for 
any  understanding  of  it, — an  effort  of  which  he  was  only 
barely  capable.  But  of  that  other  world  he  still  remem- 
bered just  enough  to  know  the  exorcising  words.  They  tore 
themselves  from  his  other  life  suddenly — 

"Mother!  Mother!  Go  away!   I  hate  you!" 

And  with  that  effort,  everything  was  solved,  everything 
became  all  right:  the  seamless  hiss  advanced  once  more,  the 
long  white  wavering  lines  rose  and  fell  like  enormous  whis- 
pering sea-waves,  the  whisper  becoming  louder,  the 
laughter  more  numerous. 

"Listen!"  it  said.  "We'll  tell  you  the  last,  the  most 
beautiful  and  secret  story — shut  your  eyes — it  is  a  very 
small  story — a  story  that  gets  smaller  and  smaller — it 
comes  inward  instead  of  opening  like  a  flower — it  is  a 

"3 


Silent  Snow,  Secret  Snow 

flower  becoming  a  seed — a  little  cold  seed — do  you  hear? 
we  are  leaning  closer  to  you — " 

The  hiss  was  now  becoming  a  roar — the  whole  world  was 
a  vast  moving  screen  of  snow — but  even  now  it  said  peace, 
it  said  remoteness,  it  said  cold,  it  said  sleep. 


114 


BUCHMENDEL 

by 

Stefan  Zzveig 


STEFAN  ZWEIG  (1881-  )  is  Viennese  by  birth.  He  is 
internationally  known  for  his  biographical  and  critical  writ- 
ing (Adepts  in  Self-Portraiture,  Three  Masters,  Mental 
Healers,  Joseph  Fouche,  Marie  Antoinette,  Romain 
Rolland,  etc.};  his  plays  (Jeremiah,  Volpone);  and  his 
novelettes  and  short  stories,  in  such  collections  as  Conflicts 
and  Kaleidoscope. 


BUCHMENDEL 

HAVING  just  got  back  to  Vienna,  after  a  visit  to 
an  out-of-the-way  part  of  the  country,  I  was 
walking  home  from  the  station  when  a  heavy 
shower  came  on,  such  a  deluge  that  the  passers-by  has- 
tened to  take  shelter  in  doorways,  and  I  myself  felt  it 
expedient  to  get  out  of  the  downpour.  Luckily  there  is 
a  cafe  at  almost  every  street-corner  in  the  metropolis,  and 
I  made  for  the  nearest,  though  not  before  my  hat  was 
dripping  wet  and  my  shoulders  were  drenched  to  the  skin. 
An  old-fashioned  suburban  place,  lacking  the  attractions 
(copied  from  Germany)  of  music  and  a  dancing-floor  to 
be  found  in  the  centre  of  the  town;  full  of  small  shop- 
keepers and  working  folk  who  consumed  more  newspapers 
than  coffee  and  rolls.  Since  it  was  already  late  in  the  eve- 
ning, the  air,  which  would  have  been  stuffy  anyhow,  was 
thick  with  tobacco-smoke.  Still,  the  place  was  clean  and 
brightly  decorated,  had  new  satin-covered  couches,  and 
a  shining  cash-register,  so  that  it  looked  thoroughly  at- 
tractive. In  my  haste  to  get  out  of  the  rain,  I  had  not 
troubled  to  read  its  name — but  what  matter?  There  I 
rested,  warm  and  comfortable,  though  looking  rather  im- 
patiently through  the  blue-tinted  window  panes  to  see 
when  the  shower  would  be  over,  and  I  should  be  able  to 
get  on  my  way. 

Thus  I  sat  unoccupied,  and  began  to  succumb  to  that 
inertia  which  results  from  the  narcotic  atmosphere  of  the 
typical  Viennese  cafe.  Out  of  this  void,  I  scanned  various 
individuals  whose  eyes,  in  the  murky  room,  had  a  greyish 
look  in  the  artificial  light;  I  mechanically  contemplated 

From  Kaleidoscope,  by  Stefan  Zweig.  Copyright  1934  by  The  Viking  Press, 
Inc.,  New  York.  Reprinted  by  permission  of  The  Viking  Press,  Inc. 

117 


Buchmendel 

the  young  woman  at  the  counter  as,  like  an  automaton, 
she  dealt  out  sugar  and  a  teaspoon  to  the  waiter  for  each 
cup  of  coffee;  with  half  an  eye  and  a  wandering  attention 
I  read  the  uninteresting  advertisements  on  the  walls — 
and  there  was  something  agreeable  about  these  dull  occu- 
pations. But  suddenly,  and  in  a  peculiar  fashion,  I  was 
aroused  from  what  had  become  almost  a  doze.  A  vague 
internal  movement  had  begun;  much  as  a  toothache 
sometimes  begins,  without  one's  being  able  to  say  whether 
it  is  on  the  right  side  or  the  left,  in  the  upper  jaw  or  the 
lower.  All  I  became  aware  of  was  a  numb  tension,  an 
obscure  sentiment  of  spiritual  unrest.  Then,  without 
knowing  why,  I  grew  fully  conscious.  I  must  have  been 
in  this  cafe  once  before,  years  ago,  and  random  associa- 
tions had  awakened  memories  of  the  walls,  the  tables, 
the  chairs,  the  seemingly  unfamiliar  smoke-laden  room. 

The  more  I  endeavoured  to  grasp  this  lost  memory,  the 
more  obstinately  did  it  elude  me;  a  sort  of  jellyfish  glisten- 
ing in  the  abysses  of  consciousness,  slippery  and  unseiz- 
able.  Vainly  did  I  scrutinize  every  object  within  the  range 
of  vision.  Certainly  when  I  had  been  here  before  the 
counter  had  had  neither  marble  top  nor  cash- register;  the 
walls  had  not  been  panelled  with  imitation  rosewood; 
these  must  be  recent  acquisitions.  Yet  I  had  indubitably 
been  here,  more  than  twenty  years  back.  Within  these 
four  walls,  as  firmly  fixed  as  a  nail  driven  up  to  the  head 
in  a  tree,  there  clung  a  part  of  my  ego,  long  since  over- 
grown. Vainly  I  explored,  not  only  the  room,  but  my 
own  inner  man,  to  grapple  the  lost  links.  Curse  it  all, 
I  could  not  plumb  the  depths! 

It  will  be  seen  that  I  was  becoming  vexed,  as  one  is 
always  out  of  humour  when  one's  grip  slips  in  this  way, 
and  reveals  the  inadequacy,  the  imperfections,  of  one's 
spiritual  powers.  Yet  I  still  hoped  to  recover  the  clue.  A 
slender  thread  would  suffice,  for  my  memory  is  of  a 
peculiar  type,  both  good  and  bad;  on  the  one  hand  stub- 

118 


Stefan  Zweig 

bornly  untrustworthy,  and  on  the  other  incredibly  de- 
pendable. It  swallows  the  most  important  details,  whether 
in  concrete  happenings  or  in  faces,  and  no  voluntary 
exertion  will  induce  it  to  regurgitate  them  from  the  gulf. 
Yet  the  most  trifling  indication — a  picture  postcard,  the 
address  on  an  envelope,  a  newspaper  cutting — will  suffice 
to  hook  up  what  is  wanted  as  an  angler  who  has  made  a 
strike  and  successfully  imbedded  his  hook  reels  in  a  lively, 
struggling,  and  reluctant  fish.  Then  I  can  recall  the 
features  of  a  man  seen  once  only,  the  shape  of  his  mouth 
and  the  gap  to  the  left  where  he  had  an  upper  eye-tooth 
knocked  out,  the  falsetto  tone  of  his  laugh,  and  the 
twitching  of  the  moustache  when  he  chooses  to  be  merry, 
the  entire  change  of  expression  which  hilarity  effects  in 
him.  Not  only  do  these  physical  traits  rise  before  my 
mind's  eye,  but  I  remember,  years  afterwards,  every 
word  the  man  said  to  me,  and  the  tenor  of  my  replies. 
But  if  I  am  to  see  and  feel  the  past  thus  vividly,  there 
must  be  some  material  link  to  start  the  current  of  asso- 
ciations. My  memory  will  not  work  satisfactorily  on  the 
abstract  plane. 

I  closed  my  eyes  to  think  more  strenuously,  in  the 
attempt  to  forge  the  hook  which  would  catch  my  fish. 
In  vain!  In  vain!  There  was  no  hook,  or  the  fish  would 
not  bite.  So  fierce  waxed  my  irritation  with  the  inefficient 
and  mulish  thinking  apparatus  between  my  temples  that 
I  could  have  struck  myself  a  violent  blow  on  the  forehead, 
much  as  an  irascible  man  will  shake  and  kick  a  penny-in- 
the-slot  machine  which,  when  he  has  inserted  his  coin, 
refuses  to  render  him  his  due. 

So  exasperated  did  I  become  at  my  failure,  that  I  could 
no  longer  sit  quiet,  but  rose  to  prowl  about  the  room.  The 
instant  I  moved,  the  glow  of  awakening  memory  began. 
To  the  right  of  the  cash-register,  I  recalled,  there  must 
be  a  doorway  leading  into  a  windowless  room,  where  the 
only  light  was  artificial.  Yes,  the  place  actually  existed. 

119 


Buchmendel 

The  decorative  scheme  was  different,  but  the  proportions 
were  unchanged.  A  square  box  of  a  place,  behind  the  bar — 
the  card-room.  My  nerves  thrilled  as  I  contemplated  the 
furniture,  for  I  was  on  the  track,  I  had  found  the  clue, 
and  soon  I  should  know  all.  There  were  two  small  billiard- 
tables,  looking  like  silent  ponds  covered  with  green  scum. 
In  the  corners,  card-tables,  at  one  of  which  two  bearded 
men  of  professorial  type  were  playing  chess.  Beside  the 
iron  stove,  close  to  a  door  labelled  "Telephone,"  was  an- 
other small  table.  In  a  flash,  I  had  it!  That  was  Mendel's 
place,  Jacob  Mendel's.  That  was  where  Mendel  used  to 
hang  out,  Buchmendel.  I  was  in  the  Cafe  Gluck!  How 
could  I  have  forgotten  Jacob  Mendel.  Was  it  possible 
that  I  had  not  thought  about  him  for  ages,  a  man  so 
peculiar  as  wellnigh  to  belong  to  the  Land  of  Fable,  the 
eighth  wonder  of  the  world,  famous  at  the  university  and 
among  a  narrow  circle  of  admirers,  magician  of  book- 
fanciers,  who  had  been  wont  to  sit  there  from  morning 
till  night,  an  emblem  of  bookish  lore,  the  glory  of  the 
Cafe  Gluck?  Why  had  I  had  so  much  difficulty  in  hooking 
my  fish?  How  could  I  have  forgotten  Buchmendel? 

I  allowed  my  imagination  to  work.  The  man's  face  and 
form  pictured  themselves  vividly  before  me.  I  saw  him 
as  he  had  been  in  the  flesh,  seated  at  the  table  with  its 
grey  marble  top,  on  which  books  and  manuscripts  were 
piled.  Motionless  he  sat,  his  spectacled  eyes  fixed  upon 
the  printed  page.  Yet  not  altogether  motionless,  for  he 
had  a  habit  (acquired  at  school  in  the  Jewish  quarter  of 
the  Galician  town  from  which  he  came)  of  rocking  his 
shiny  bald  pate  backwards  and  forwards  and  humming 
to  himself  as  he  read.  There  he  studied  catalogues  and 
tomes,  crooning  and  rocking,  as  Jewish  boys  are  taught 
to  do  when  reading  the  Talmud.  The  rabbis  believe  that, 
just  as  a  child  is  rocked  to  sleep  in  its  cradle,  so  are  the 
pious  ideas  of  the  holy  text  better  instilled  by  this  rhyth- 
mical and  hypnotizing  movement  of  head  and  body.  In 

1 20 


Stefan  Zweig 

fact,  as  if  he  had  been  in  a  trance,  Jacob  Mendel  saw  and 
heard  nothing  while  thus  occupied.  He  was  oblivious  to 
the  click  of  billiard-balls,  the  coming  and  going  of  waiters, 
the  ringing  of  the  telephone  bell;  he  paid  no  heed  when 
the  floor  was  scrubbed  and  when  the  stove  was  refilled. 
Once  a  red-hot  coal  fell  out  of  the  latter,  and  the  flooring 
began  to  blaze  a  few  inches  from  Mendel's  feet;  the  room 
was  full  of  smoke,  and  one  of  the  guests  ran  for  a  pail  of 
water  to  extinguish  the  fire.  But  neither  the  smoke,  the 
bustle,  nor  the  stench  diverted  his  attention  from  the 
volume  before  him.  He  read  as  others  pray,  as  gamblers 
follow  the  spinning  of  the  roulette  board,  as  drunkards 
stare  into  vacancy;  he  read  with  such  profound  absorption 
that  ever  since  I  first  watched  him  the  reading  of  ordinary 
mortals  has  seemed  a  pastime.  This  Galician  second- 
hand book  dealer,  Jacob  Mendel,  was  the  first  to  reveal 
to  me  in  my  youth  the  mystery  of  absolute  concentration 
which  characterizes  the  artist  and  the  scholar,  the  sage 
and  the  imbecile;  the  first  to  make  me  acquainted  with 
the  tragical  happiness  and  unhappiness  of  complete 
absorption. 

A  senior  student  introduced  me  to  him.  I  was  studying 
the  life  and  doings  of  a  man  who  is  even  today  too  little 
known,  Mesmer  the  magnetizer.  My  researches  were 
bearing  scant  fruit,  for  the  books  I  could  lay  my  hands 
on  conveyed  sparse  information,  and  when  I  applied  to 
the  university  librarian  for  help  he  told  me,  uncivilly, 
that  it  was  not  his  business  to  hunt  up  references  for  a 
freshman.  Then  my  college  friend  suggested  taking  me  to 
Mendel. 

"He  knows  everything  about  books,  and  will  tell  you 
where  to  find  the  information  you  want.  The  ablest  man 
in  Vienna,  and  an  original  to  boot.  The  man  is  a  saurian 
of  the  book-world,  an  antediluvian  survivor  of  an  extinct 
species." 

We  went,   therefore,   to  the  Cafe  Gluck,   and  found 

121 


Buchmendel 

Buchmendel  in  his  usual  place,  bespectacled,  bearded, 
wearing  a  rusty  black  suit,  and  rocking  as  I  have  de- 
scribed. He  did  not  notice  our  intrusion,  but  went  on 
reading,  looking  like  a  nodding  mandarin.  On  a  hook 
behind  him  hung  his  ragged  black  overcoat,  the  pockets 
of  which  bulged  with  manuscripts,  catalogues,  and  books. 
My  friend  coughed  loudly,  to  attract  his  attention,  but 
Mendel  ignored  the  sign.  At  length  Schmidt  rapped  on 
the  table-top,  as  if  knocking  at  a  door,  and  at  this  Mendel 
glanced  up,  mechanically  pushed  his  spectacles  on  to  his 
forehead,  and  from  beneath  his  thick  and  untidy  ashen- 
grey  brows  there  glared  at  us  two  dark,  alert  little  eyes. 
My  friend  introduced  me,  and  I  explained  my  quandary, 
being  careful  (as  Schmidt  had  advised)  to  express  great 
annoyance  at  the  librarian's  unwillingness  to  assist  me. 
Mendel  leaned  back,  laughed  scornfully,  and  answered 
with  a  strong  Galician  accent: 

"Unwillingness,  you  think?  Incompetence,  that's  what's 
the  matter  with  him.  He's  a  jackass.  I've  known  him  (for 
my  sins)  twenty  years  at  least,  and  he's  learned  nothing  in 
the  whole  of  that  time.  Pocket  their  wages — that's  all 
such  fellows  can  do.  They  should  be  mending  the  road, 
instead  of  sitting  over  books." 

This  outburst  served  to  break  the  ice,  and  with  a  friendly 
wave  of  the  hand  the  bookworm  invited  me  to  sit  down 
at  his  table.  I  reiterated  my  object  in  consulting  him; 
to  get  a  list  of  all  the  early  works  on  animal  magnetism, 
and  of  contemporary  and  subsequent  books  and  pamphlets 
for  and  against  Mesmer.  When  I  had  said  my  say,  Mendel 
closed  his  left  eye  for  an  instant,  as  if  excluding  a  grain  of 
dust.  This  was,  with  him,  a  sign  of  concentrated  attention. 
Then,  as  though  reading  from  an  invisible  catalogue,  he 
reeled  out  the  names  of  two  or  three  dozen  titles,  giving 
in  each  case  place  and  date  of  publication  and  approximate 
price.  I  was  amazed,  though  Schmidt  had  warned  me 
what  to  expect.  His  vanity  was  tickled  by  my  surprise, 

122 


Stefan  Zweig 

for  he  went  on  to  strum  the  keyboard  of  his  marvellous 
memory,  and  to  produce  the  most  astounding  biblio- 
graphical marginal  notes.  Did  I  want  to  know  about 
sleepwalkers,  Perkins's  metallic  tractors,  early  experi- 
ments in  hypnotism,  Braid,  Gassner,  attempts  to  conjure 
up  the  devil,  Christian  Science,  theosophy,  Madame 
Blavatsky?  In  connexion  with  each  item  there  was  a 
hailstorm  of  book-names,  dates,  and  appropriate  details. 
I  was  beginning  to  understand  that  Jacob  Mendel  was 
a  living  lexicon,  something  like  the  general  catalogue  of 
the  British  Museum  Reading  Room,  but  able  to  walk 
about  on  two  legs.  I  stared  dumbfounded  at  this  biblio- 
graphical phenomenon,  which  masqueraded  in  the  sordid 
and  rather  unclean  domino  of  a  Galician  second-hand 
book  dealer,  who,  after  rattling  off  some  eighty  titles 
(with  assumed  indifference,  but  really  with  the  satisfac- 
tion of  one  who  plays  an  unexpected  trump),  proceeded 
to  wipe  his  spectacles  with  a  handkerchief  which  might 
long  before  have  been  white. 

Hoping  to  conceal  my  astonishment,  I  inquired: 

"Which  among  these  works  do  you  think  you  could 
get  for  me  without  too  much  trouble?" 

"Oh,  I'll  have  a  look  round,"  he  answered.  "Come 
here  tomorrow  and  I  shall  certainly  have  some  of  them. 
As  for  the  others,  it's  only  a  question  of  time,  and  of 
knowing  where  to  look." 

"Pm  greatly  obliged  to  you,"  I  said;  and,  then,  wishing 
to  be  civil,  I  put  my  foot  in  it,  proposing  to  give  him  a 
list  of  the  books  I  wanted.  Schmidt  nudged  me  warningly, 
but  too  late.  Mendel  had  already  flashed  a  look  at  me — 
such  a  look,  at  once  triumphant  and  affronted,  scornful 
and  overwhelmingly  superior — the  royal  look  with  which 
Macbeth  answers  Macduff  when  summoned  to  yield 
without  a  blow.  He  laughed  curtly.  His  Adam's  apple 
moved  excitedly.  Obviously  he  had  gulped  down  a 
choleric,  an  insulting  epithet. 

123 


Buchmendel 

Indeed  he  had  good  reason  to  be  angry.  Only  a  stranger, 
an  ignoramus,  could  have  proposed  to  give  him,  Jacob 
Mendel,  a  memorandum,  as  if  he  had  been  a  bookseller's 
assistant  or  an  underling  in  a  public  library.  Not  until 
I  knew  him  better  did  I  fully  understand  how  much  my 
would-be  politeness  must  have  galled  this  aberrant  gen- 
ius— for  the  man  had,  and  knew  himself  to  have,  a  titanic 
memory,  wherein,  behind  a  dirty  and  undistinguished- 
looking  forehead,  was  indelibly  recorded  a  picture  of  the 
title-page  of  every  book  that  had  been  printed.  No  matter 
whether  it  had  issued  from  the  press  yesterday  or  hun- 
dreds of  years  ago,  he  knew  its  place  of  publication,  its 
author's  name,  and  its  price.  From  his  mind,  as  if  from 
the  printed  page,  he  could  read  off  the  contents,  could 
reproduce  the  illustrations;  could  visualize,  not  only  what 
he  had  actually  held  in  his  hands,  but  also  what  he  had 
glanced  at  in  a  bookseller's  window;  could  see  it  with  the 
same  vividness  as  an  artist  sees  the  creations  of  fancy 
which  he  has  not  yet  reproduced  upon  canvas.  When  a 
book  was  offered  for  six  marks  by  a  Regensburg  dealer, 
he  could  remember  that,  two  years  before,  a  copy  of  the 
same  work  had  changed  hands  for  four  crowns  at  a 
Viennese  auction,  and  he  recalled  the  name  of  the  pur- 
chaser. In  a  word,  Jacob  Mendel  never  forgot  a  title  or  a 
figure;  he  knew  every  plant,  every  infusorian,  every  star, 
in  the  continually  revolving  and  incessantly  changing 
cosmos  of  the  book-universe.  In  each  literary  specialty, 
he  knew  more  than  the  specialists;  he  knew  the  contents 
of  the  libraries  better  than  the  librarians;  he  knew  the 
book-lists  of  most  publishers  better  than  the  heads  of  the 
firms  concerned — though  he  had  nothing  to  guide  him 
except  the  magical  powers  of  his  inexplicable  but  in- 
variably accurate  memory. 

True,  this  memory  owed  its  infallibility  to  the  man's 
limitations,  to  his  extraordinary  power  of  concentration. 
Apart  from  books,  he  knew  nothing  of  the  world.  The 

124 


Stefan  Zweig 

phenomena  of  existence  did  not  begin  to  become  real  for 
him  until  they  had  been  set  in  type,  arranged  upon  a 
composing  stick,  collected  and,  so  to  say,  sterilized  in  a 
book.  Nor  did  he  read  books  for  their  meaning,  to  extract 
their  spiritual  or  narrative  substance.  What  aroused  his 
passionate  interest,  what  fixed  his  attention,  was  the 
name,  the  price,  the  format,  the  title-page.  Though  in 
the  last  analysis  unproductive  and  uncreative,  this  spe- 
cifically antiquarian  memory  of  Jacob  Mendel,  since  it 
was  not  a  printed  book-catalogue  but  was  stamped  upon 
the  grey  matter  of  a  mammalian  brain,  was,  in  its  unique 
perfection,  no  less  remarkable  a  phenomenon  than  Na- 
poleon's gift  for  physiognomy,  Mezzofanti's  talent  for 
languages,  Lasker's  skill  at  chess-openings,  Busoni's 
musical  genius.  Given  a  public  position  as  teacher,  this 
man  with  so  marvellous  a  brain  might  have  taught 
thousands  and  hundreds  of  thousands  of  students,  have 
trained  others  to  become  men  of  great  learning  and  of 
incalculable  value  to  those  communal  treasure-houses  we 
call  libraries.  But  to  him,  a  man  of  no  account,  a  Galician 
Jew,  a  book-pedlar  whose  only  training  had  been  received 
in  a  Talmudic  school,  this  upper  world  of  culture  was  a 
fenced  precinct  he  could  never  enter;  and  his  amazing 
faculties  could  only  find  application  at  the  marble-topped 
table  in  the  inner  room  of  the  Cafe  Gluck.  When,  some 
day,  there  arises  a  great  psychologist  who  shall  classify 
the  types  of  that  magical  power  we  term  memory  as 
effectively  as  Buffon  classified  the  genera  and  species  of 
animals,  a  man  competent  to  give  a  detailed  description 
of  all  the  varieties,  he  will  have  to  find  a  pigeonhole  for 
Jacob  Mendel,  forgotten  master  of  the  lore  of  book- 
prices  and  book-titles,  the  ambulatory  catalogue  alike  of 
incunabula  and  the  modern  commonplace. 

In  the  book-trade  and  among  ordinary  persons,  Jacob 
Mendel  was  regarded  as  nothing  more  than  a  second-hand 
book  dealer  in  a  small  way  of  business.  Sunday  after 


Buchmendel 

Sunday,  his  stereotyped  advertisement  appeared  in  the 
"Neue  Freie  Presse"  and  the  "Neues  Wiener  Tagblatt." 
It  ran  as  follows:  "Best  prices  paid  for  old  books,  Mendel, 
Obere  Alserstrasse."  A  telephone  number  followed,  really 
that  of  the  Cafe  Gluck.  He  rummaged  every  available 
corner  for  his  wares,  and  once  a  week,  with  the  aid  of  a 
bearded  porter,  conveyed  fresh  booty  to  his  headquarters 
and  got  rid  of  old  stock — for  he  had  no  proper  bookshop. 
Thus  he  remained  a  petty  trader,  and  his  business  was 
not  lucrative.  Students  sold  him  their  textbooks,  which 
year  by  year  passed  through  his  hands  from  one  "  genera- 
tion" to  another;  and  for  a  small  percentage  on  the  price 
he  would  procure  any  additional  book  that  was  wanted. 
He  charged  little  or  nothing  for  advice.  Money  seemed 
to  have  no  standing  in  his  world.  No  one  had  ever  seen 
him  better  dressed  than  in  the  threadbare  black  coat.  For 
breakfast  and  supper  he  had  a  glass  of  milk  and  a  couple 
of  rolls,  while  at  midday  a  modest  meal  was  brought  him 
from  a  neighbouring  restaurant.  He  did  not  smoke;  he 
did  not  play  cards;  one  might  almost  say  he  did  not  live, 
were  it  not  that  his  eyes  were  alive  behind  his  spectacles, 
and  unceasingly  fed  his  enigmatic  brain  with  words, 
titles,  names.  The  brain,  like  a  fertile  pasture,  greedily 
sucked  in  this  abundant  irrigation.  Human  beings  did 
not  interest  him,  and  of  all  human  passions  perhaps  one 
only  moved  him,  the  most  universal — vanity. 

When  someone,  wearied  by  a  futile  hunt  in  countless 
other  places,  applied  to  him  for  information,  and  was  in- 
stantly put  on  the  track,  his  self-gratification  was  over- 
whelming; and  it  was  unquestionably  a  delight  to  him 
that  in  Vienna  and  elsewhere  there  existed  a  few  dozen 
persons  who  respected  him  for  his  knowledge  and  valued 
him  for  the  services  he  could  render.  In  every  one  of 
these  monstrous  aggregates  we  call  towns,  there  are  here 
and  there  facets  which  reflect  one  and  the  same  universe 
in  miniature — unseen  by  most,  but  highly  prized  by  con- 

126 


Stefan  Zweig 

noisseurs,  by  brethren  of  the  same  craft,  by  devotees  of 
the  same  passion.  The  fans  of  the  book-market  knew 
Jacob  Mendel.  Just  as  anyone  encountering  a  difficulty 
in  deciphering  a  score  would  apply  to  Eusebius  Man- 
dyczewski  of  the  Musical  Society,  who  would  be  found 
wearing  a  grey  skull-cap  and  seated  among  multifarious 
musical  MSS.,  ready,  with  a  friendly  smile,  to  solve  the 
most  obstinate  crux;  and  just  as,  today,  anyone  in  search 
of  information  about  the  Viennese  theatrical  and  cultural 
life  of  earlier  times  will  unhesitatingly  look  up  the  poly- 
histor  Father  Glossy;  so,  with  equal  confidence  did  the 
bibliophiles  of  Vienna,  when  they  had  a  particularly  hard 
nut  to  crack,  make  a  pilgrimage  to  the  Cafe  Gluck  and  lay 
their  difficulty  before  Jacob  Mendel. 

To  me,  young  and  eager  for  new  experiences,  it  became 
enthralling  to  watch  such  a  consultation.  Whereas  ordi- 
narily, when  a  would-be  seller  brought  him  some  ordinary 
book,  he  would  contemptuously  clap  the  cover  to  and 
mutter,  "Two  crowns";  if  shown  a  rare  or  unique  volume, 
he  would  sit  up  and  take  notice,  lay  the  treasure  upon  a 
clean  sheet  of  paper;  and,  on  one  such  occasion,  he  was 
obviously  ashamed  of  his  dirty,  ink-stained  fingers  and 
mourning  finger-nails.  Tenderly,  cautiously,  respectfully, 
he  would  turn  the  pages  of  the  treasure.  One  would  have 
been  as  loath  to  disturb  him  at  such  a  moment  as  to  break 
in  upon  the  devotions  of  a  man  at  prayer;  and  in  very 
truth  there  was  a  flavour  of  solemn  ritual  and  religious 
observance  about  the  way  in  which  contemplation,  pal- 
pation, smelling,  and  weighing  in  the  hand  followed  one 
another  in  orderly  succession.  His  rounded  back  waggled 
while  he  was  thus  engaged,  he  muttered  to  himself,  ex- 
claimed "Ah"  now  and  again  to  express  wonder  or  ad- 
miration, or  "Oh,  dear"  when  a  page  was  missing  or 
another  had  been  mutilated  by  the  larva  of  a  book-beetle. 
His  weighing  of  the  tome  in  his  hand  was  as  circumspect 
as  if  books  were  sold  by  the  ounce,  and  his  snuffling  at  it 

127 


Buchmendel 

as  sentimental  as  a  girl's  smelling  of  a  rose.  Of  course  it 
would  have  been  the  height  of  bad  form  for  the  owner  to 
show  impatience  during  this  ritual  of  examination. 

When  it  was  over,  he  willingly,  nay  enthusiastically, 
tendered  all  the  information  at  his  disposal,  not  forgetting 
relevant  anecdotes,  and  dramatized  accounts  of  the  prices 
which  other  specimens  of  the  same  work  had  fetched  at 
auctions  or  in  sales  by  private  treaty.  He  looked  brighter, 
younger,  more  lively  at  such  times,  and  only  one  thing 
could  put  him  seriously  out  of  humour.  This  was  when  a 
novice  offered  him  money  for  his  expert  opinion.  Then  he 
would  draw  back  with  an  affronted  air,  looking  for  all  the 
world  like  the  skilled  custodian  of  a  museum  gallery  to 
whom  an  American  traveller  has  offered  a  tip — for  to 
Jacob  Mendel  contact  with  a  rare  book  was  something 
sacred,  as  is  contact  with  a  woman  to  a  young  man  who 
has  not  had  the  bloom  rubbed  off.  Such  moments  were 
his  platonic  love-nights.  Books  exerted  a  spell  on  him, 
never  money.  Vainly,  therefore,  did  great  collectors 
(among  them  one  of  the  notables  of  Princeton  University) 
try  to  recruit  Mendel  as  librarian  or  book-buyer.  The 
offer  was  declined  with  thanks.  He  could  not  forsake  his 
familiar  headquarters  at  the  Cafe  Gluck.  Thirty-three 
years  before,  an  awkward  youngster  with  black  down 
sprouting  on  his  chin  and  black  ringlets  hanging  over  his 
temples,  he  had  come  from  Galicia  to  Vienna,  intending 
to  adopt  the  calling  of  rabbi;  but  ere  long  he  forsook  the 
worship  of  the  harsh  and  jealous  Jehovah  to  devote  him- 
self to  the  more  lively  and  polytheistic  cult  of  books.  Then 
he  happened  upon  the  Cafe  Gluck,  by  degrees  making  it 
his  workshop,  headquarters,  post-office — his  world.  Just 
as  an  astronomer,  alone  in  an  observatory,  watches  night 
after  night  through  a  telescope  the  myriads  of  stars,  their 
mysterious  movements,  their  changeful  medley,  their  ex- 
tinction and  their  flaming-up  anew,  so  did  Jacob  Mendel, 
seated  at  his  table  in  the  Cafe  Gluck,  look  through  his 

128 


S tef a n  Zweig 

spectacles  into  the  universe  of  books,  a  universe  that  lies 
above  the  world  of  our  everyday  life,  and,  like  the  stellar 
universe,  is  full  of  changing  cycles. 

It  need  hardly  be  said  that  he  was  highly  esteemed  in 
the  Cafe  Gluck,  whose  fame  seemed  to  us  to  depend  far 
more  upon  his  unofficial  professorship  than  upon  the  god- 
fathership  of  the  famous  musician,  Christoph  Willibald 
Gluck,  composer  of  Alcestis  and  Iphigenia.  He  belonged 
to  the  outfit  quite  as  much  as  did  the  old  cherrywood 
counter,  the  two  billiard-tables  with  their  cloth  stitched 
in  many  places,  and  the  copper  coffee-urn.  His  table  was 
guarded  as  a  sanctuary.  His  numerous  clients  and  cus- 
tomers were  expected  to  take  a  drink  "for  the  good  of  the 
house,"  so  that  most  of  the  profit  of  his  far-flung  knowledge 
flowed  into  the  big  leathern  pouch  slung  round  the  waist 
of  Deubler,  the  waiter.  In  return  for  being  a  centre  of 
attraction,  Mendel  enjoyed  many  privileges.  The  tele- 
phone was  at  his  service  for  nothing.  He  could  have  his 
letters  directed  to  the  cafe,  and  his  parcels  were  taken  in 
there.  The  excellent  old  woman  who  looked  after  the 
toilet  brushed  his  coat,  sewed  on  buttons,  and  carried  a 
small  bundle  of  underlinen  every  week  to  the  wash.  He 
was  the  only  guest  who  could  have  a  meal  sent  in  from 
the  restaurant;  and  every  morning  Herr  Standhartner, 
the  proprietor  of  the  cafe,  made  a  point  of  coming  to  his 
table  and  saying  "Good  morning!" — though  Jacob  Men- 
del, immersed  in  his  books,  seldom  noticed  the  greeting. 
Punctually  at  half-past  seven  he  arrived,  and  did  not 
leave  till  the  lights  were  extinguished.  He  never  spoke  to 
the  other  guests,  never  read  a  newspaper,  noticed  no 
changes;  and  once,  when  Herr  Standhartner  civilly  asked 
him  whether  he  did  not  find  the  electric  light  more  agree- 
able to  read  by  than  the  malodorous  and  uncertain  kero- 
sene lamps  they  had  replaced,  he  stared  in  astonishment 
at  the  new  incandescents.  Although  the  installation  had 
necessitated  several  days'  hammering  and  bustle,  the  in- 

129 


Buchmendel 

troduction  of  the  glow-lamps  had  escaped  his  notice. 
Only  through  the  two  round  apertures  of  the  spectacles, 
only  through  these  two  shining  and  sucking  lenses,  did 
the  milliards  of  black  infusorians  which  were  the  letters 
filter  into  his  brain.  Whatever  else  happened  in  his  vicinity 
was  disregarded  as  unmeaning  noise.  He  had  spent  more 
than  thirty  years  of  his  waking  life  at  this  table,  reading, 
comparing,  calculating,  in  a  continuous  waking  dream, 
interrupted  only  by  intervals  of  sleep. 

A  sense  of  horror  overcame  me  when,  looking  into  the 
inner  room  behind  the  bar  of  the  Cafe  Gluck,  I  saw  that 
the  marble  top  of  the  table  where  Jacob  Mendel  used  to 
deliver  his  oracles  was  now  as  bare  as  a  tombstone.  Grown 
older  since  those  days,  I  understood  how  much  disappears 
when  such  a  man  drops  out  of  his  place  in  the  world, 
were  it  only  because,  amid  the  daily  increase  in  hopeless 
monotony,  the  unique  grows  continually  more  precious. 
Besides,  in  my  callow  youth  a  profound  intuition  had 
made  me  exceedingly  fond  of  Buchmendel.  It  was  through 
the  observation  of  him  that  I  had  first  become  aware  of 
the  enigmatic  fact  that  supreme  achievement  and  out- 
standing capacity  are  only  rendered  possible  by  mental 
concentration,  by  a  sublime  monomania  that  verges  on 
lunacy.  Through  the  living  example  of  this  obscure  genius 
of  a  second-hand  book  dealer,  far  more  than  through  the 
flashes  of  insight  in  the  works  of  our  poets  and  other 
imaginative  writers,  had  been  made  plain  to  me  the  per- 
sistent possibility  of  a  pure  life  of  the  spirit,  of  complete 
absorption  in  an  idea,  an  ecstasy  as  absolute  as  that  of  an 
Indian  yogi  or  a  medieval  monk;  and  I  had  learned  that 
this  was  possible  in  an  electric-lighted  cafe  and  adjoining 
a  telephone  box.  Yet  I  had  forgotten  him,  during  the  war 
years,  and  through  a  kindred  immersion  in  my  own  work. 
The  sight  of  the  empty  table  made  me  ashamed  of  my- 
self, and  at  the  same  time  curious  about  the  man  who 
used  to  sit  there. 

130 


Stefan  Zweig 

What  had  become  of  him?  I  called  the  waiter  and  in- 
quired. 

"No,  Sir,"  he  answered,  "I'm  sorry,  but  I  never  heard 
of  Herr  Mendel.  There  is  no  one  of  that  name  among  the 
frequenters  of  the  Cafe  Gluck.  Perhaps  the  head-waiter 
will  know." 

"Herr  Mendel?"  said  the  head-waiter  dubiously,  after 
a  moment's  reflection.  "No,  Sir,  never  heard  of  him. 
Unless  you  mean  Herr  Mandl,  who  has  a  hardware  store 
in  the  Florianigasse?" 

I  had  a  bitter  taste  in  the  mouth,  the  taste  of  an  irre- 
coverable past.  What  is  the  use  of  living,  when  the  wind 
obliterates  our  footsteps  in  the  sand  directly  we  have  gone 
by?  Thirty  years,  perhaps  forty,  a  man  had  breathed, 
read,  thought,  and  spoken  within  this  narrow  room;  three 
or  four  years  had  elapsed,  and  there  had  arisen  a  new  king 
over  Egypt,  which  knew  not  Joseph.  No  one  in  the  Cafe 
Gluck  had  ever  heard  of  Jacob  Mendel,  of  Buchmendel. 
Somewhat  pettishly  I  asked  the  head-waiter  whether  I 
could  have  a  word  with  Herr  Standhartner,  or  with  one 
of  the  old  staff. 

"Herr  Standhartner,  who  used  to  own  the  place?  He 
sold  it  years  ago,  and  has  died  since.  .  .  .  The  former 
head-waiter?  He  saved  up  enough  to  retire,  and  lives 
upon  a  little  property  at  Krems.  No,  Sir,  all  of  the  old 
lot  are  scattered.  All  except  one,  indeed,  Frau  Sporschil, 
who  looks  after  the  toilet.  She's  been  here  for  ages,  worked 
under  the  late  owner,  I  know.  But  she's  not  likely  to  re- 
member your  Herr  Mendel.  Such  as  she  hardly  know 
one  guest  from  another." 

I  dissented  in  thought. 

"One  does  not  forget  a  Jacob  Mendel  so  easily!" 

What  I  said  was: 

"  Still,  I  should  like  to  have  a  word  with  Frau  Sporschil, 
if  she  has  a  moment  to  spare," 

The  "Toilettenfrau"  (known  in  the  Viennese  vernacular 


Buchmendel 

as  the  "Schocoladefrau")  soon  emerged  from  the  base- 
ment, white-haired,  run  to  seed,  heavy-footed,  wiping  her 
chapped  hands  upon  a  towel  as  she  came.  She  had  been 
called  away  from  her  task  of  cleaning  up,  and  was  ob- 
viously uneasy  at  being  summoned  into  the  strong  light 
of  the  guest-rooms — for  common  folk  in  Vienna,  where  an 
authoritative  tradition  has  lingered  on  after  the  revolution, 
always  think  it  must  be  a  police  matter  when  their  "su- 
periors3' want  to  question  them.  She  eyed  me  suspiciously, 
though  humbly.  But  as  soon  as  I  asked  her  about  Jacob 
Mendel,  she  braced  up,  and  at  the  same  time  her  eyes 
filled  with  tears. 

"Poor  Herr  Mendel  ...  so  there's  still  someone  who 
bears  him  in  mind?" 

Old  people  are  commonly  much  moved  by  anything 
which  recalls  the  days  of  their  youth  and  revives  the 
memory  of  past  companionships.  I  asked  if  he  was  still 
alive. 

"Good  Lord,  no.  Poor  Herr  Mendel  must  have^died 
five  or  six  years  ago.  Indeed,  I  think  it's  fully  seven  since 
he  passed  away.  Dear,  good  man  that  he  was;  and  how 
long  I  knew  him,  more  than  twenty-five  years;  he  was 
already  sitting  every  day  at  his  table  when  I  began  to 
work  here.  It  was  a  shame,  it  was,  the  way  they  let  him 
die." 

Growing  more  and  more  excited,  she  asked  if  I  was  a 
relative.  No  one  had  ever  inquired  about  him  before. 
Didn't  I  know  what  had  happened  to  him? 

"No,"  I  replied,  "and  I  want  you  to  be  good  enough 
to  tell  me  all  about  it." 

She  looked  at  me  timidly,  and  continued  to  wipe  her 
damp  hands.  It  was  plain  to  me  that  she  found  it  em- 
barrassing, with  her  dirty  apron  and  her  tousled  white  hair, 
to  be  standing  in  the  full  glare  of  the  cafe.  She  kept  look- 
ing round  anxiously,  to  see  if  one  of  the  waiters  might  be 
listening. 

132 


Stefan  Zweig 

"Let's  go  into  the  card-room,"  I  said,  "Mendel's  old 
room.  You  shall  tell  me  your  story  there." 

She  nodded  appreciatively,  thankful  that  I  understood, 
and  led  the  way  to  the  inner  room,  a  little  shambling  in 
her  gait.  As  I  followed,  I  noticed  that  the  waiters  and 
the  guests  were  staring  at  us  as  a  strangely  assorted  pair. 
We  sat  down  opposite  one  another  at  the  marble-topped 
table,  and  there  she  told  me  the  story  of  Jacob  Mendel's 
ruin  and  death.  I  will  give  the  tale  as  nearly  as  may  be 
in  her  own  words,  supplemented  here  and  there  by  what 
I  learned  afterwards  from  other  sources. 

"Down  to  the  outbreak  of  war,  and  after  the  war  had 
begun,  he  continued  to  come  here  every  morning  at  half- 
past  seven,  to  sit  at  this  table  and  study  all  day  just  as 
before.  We  had  the  feeling  that  the  fact  of  a  war  going 
on  had  never  entered  his  mind.  Certainly  he  didn't  read 
the  newspapers,  and  didn't  talk  to  anyone  except  about 
books.  He  paid  no  attention  when  (in  the  early  days  of 
the  war,  before  the  authorities  put  a  stop  to  such  things) 
the  newspaper-venders  ran  through  the  streets  shouting, 
'Great  Battle  on  the  Eastern  Front'  (or  wherever  it  might 
be),  'Horrible  Slaughter,'  and  so  on;  when  people  gath- 
ered in  knots  to  talk  things  over,  he  kept  himself  to  him- 
self; he  did  not  know  that  Fritz,  the  billiard-marker,  who 
fell  in  one  of  the  first  battles,  had  vanished  from  this 
place;  he  did  not  know  that  Herr  Standhartner's  son  had 
been  taken  prisoner  by  the  Russians  at  Przemysl;  never 
said  a  word  when  the  bread  grew  more  and  more  uneatable 
and  when  he  was  given  bean-coffee  to  drink  at  breakfast 
and  supper  instead  of  hot  milk.  Once  only  did  he  express 
surprise  at  the  changes,  wondering  why  so  few  students 
came  to  the  cafe.  There  was  nothing  in  the  world  that 
mattered  to  him  except  his  books. 

"Then  disaster  befell  him.  At  eleven  one  morning,  two 
policemen  came,  one  in  uniform,  and  the  other  a  plain- 
clothes  man.  The  latter  showed  the  red  rosette  under 

133 


Buchmendel 

the  lapel  of  his  coat  and  asked  whether  there  was  a  man 
named  Jacob  Mendel  in  the  house.  They  went  straight 
to  Herr  Mendel's  table.  The  poor  man,  in  his  innocence, 
supposed  they  had  books  to  sell,  or  wanted  some  informa- 
tion; but  they  told  him  he  was  under  arrest,  and  took 
him  away  at  once.  It  was  a  scandal  for  the  cafe.  All  the 
guests  flocked  round  Herr  Mendel,  as  he  stood  between 
the  two  police  officers,  his  spectacles  pushed  up  under  his 
hair,  staring  from  each  to  the  other  bewildered.  Some 
ventured  a  protest,  saying  there  must  be  a  mistake — that 
Herr  Mendel  was  a  man  who  wouldn't  hurt  a  fly;  but  the 
detective  was  furious,  and  told  them  to  mind  their  own 
business.  They  took  him  away,  and  none  of  us  at  the 
Cafe  Gluck  saw  him  again  for  two  years.  I  never  found 
out  what  they  had  against  him,  but  I  would  take  my  dying 
oath  that  they  must  have  made  a  mistake.  Herr  Mendel 
could  never  have  done  anything  wrong.  It  was  a  crime 
to  treat  an  innocent  man  so  harshly." 

The  excellent  Frau  Sporschil  was  right.  Our  friend  Jacob 
Mendel  had  done  nothing  wrong.  He  had  merely  (as  I 
subsequently  learned)  done  something  incredibly  stupid, 
only  explicable  to  those  who  knew  the  man's  peculiarities. 
The  military  censorship  board,  whose  function  it  was  to 
supervise  correspondence  passing  into  and  out  of  neutral 
hands,  one  day  got  its  clutches  upon  a  postcard  written 
and  signed  by  a  certain  Jacob  Mendel,  properly  stamped 
for  transmission  abroad.  This  postcard  was  addressed  to 
Monsieur  Jean  Labourdaire,  Libraire,  Quai  de  Crenelle, 
Paris — to  an  enemy  country,  therefore.  The  writer  com- 
plained that  the  last  eight  issues  of  the  monthly  "Bulletin 
bibliographique  de  la  France"  had  failed  to  reach  him, 
although  his  annual  subscription  had  been  duly  paid  in 
advance.  The  jack-in-office  who  read  this  missive  (a  high- 
school  teacher  with  a  bent  for  the  study  of  the  Romance 
languages,  called  up  for  "war-service"  and  sent  to  employ 
his  talents  at  the  censorship  board  instead  of  wasting 

134 


Stefan  Zweig 

them  in  the  trenches)  was  astonished  by  its  tenor.  "Must 
be  a  joke,"  he  thought.  He  had  to  examine  some  two 
thousand  letters  and  postcards  every  week,  always  on  the 
alert  to  detect  anything  that  might  savour  of  espionage, 
but  never  yet  had  he  chanced  upon  anything  so  absurd 
as  that  an  Austrian  subject  should  unconcernedly  drop 
into  one  of  the  imperial  and  royal  letter-boxes  a  postcard 
addressed  to  someone  in  an  enemy  land,  regardless  of  the 
trifling  detail  that  since  August  1914  the  Central  Powers 
had  been  cut  off  from  Russia  on  one  side  and  from  France 
on  the  other  by  barbed-wire  entanglements  and  a  network 
of  ditches  in  which  men  armed  with  rifles  and  bayonets, 
machine-guns  and  artillery,  were  doing  their  utmost  to 
exterminate  one  another  like  rats.  Our  schoolmaster  en- 
rolled in  the  Landsturm  did  not  treat  this  first  postcard 
seriously,  but  pigeon-holed  it  as  a  curiosity  not  worth 
talking  about  to  his  chief.  But  a  few  weeks  later  there 
turned  up  another  card,  again  from  Jacob  Mendel,  this 
time  to  John  Aldridge,  Bookseller,  Golden  Square,  London, 
asking  whether  the  addressee  could  send  the  last  few 
numbers  of  the  "Antiquarian"  to  an  address  in  Vienna 
which  was  clearly  stated  on  the  card. 

The  censor  in  the  blue  uniform  began  to  feel  uneasy. 
Was  his  "class"  trying  to  trick  the  schoolmaster?  Were 
the  cards  written  in  cipher?  Possible,  anyhow;  so  the 
subordinate  went  over  to  the  major's  desk,  clicked  his 
heels  together,  saluted,  and  laid  the  suspicious  documents 
before  "properly  constituted  authority."  A  strange 
business,  certainly.  The  police  were  instructed  by  tele- 
phone to  see  if  there  actually  was  a  Jacob  Mendel  at  the 
specified  address,  and,  if  so,  to  bring  the  fellow  along. 
Within  the  hour,  Mendel  had  been  arrested,  and  (still 
stupefied  by  the  shock)  brought  before  the  major,  who 
showed  him  the  postcards,  and  asked  him  with  drill- 
sergeant  roughness  whether  he  acknowledged  their  au- 
thorship. Angered  at  being  spoken  to  so  sharply,  and 


Buchmendel 

still  more  annoyed  because  his  perusal  of  an  important 
catalogue  had  been  interrupted,  Mendel  answered  tartly: 

"Of  course  I  wrote  the  cards.  That's  my  handwriting 
and  signature.  Surely  one  has  a  right  to  claim  the  de- 
livery of  a  periodical  to  which  one  has  subscribed?" 

The  major  swung  half-round  in  his  swivel-chair  and  ex- 
changed a  meaning  glance  with  the  lieutenant  seated  at 
the  adjoining  desk. 

"The  man  must  be  a  double-distilled  idiot"  was  what 
they  mutely  conveyed  to  one  another. 

Then  the  chief  took  counsel  within  himself  whether  he 
should  discharge  the  offender  with  a  caution,  or  whether 
he  should  treat  the  case  more  seriously.  In  all  offices, 
when  such  doubts  arise,  the  usual  practice  is,  not  to  spin 
a  coin,  but  to  send  in  a  report.  Thus  Pilate  washes  his 
hands  of  responsibility.  Even  if  the  report  does  no  good, 
it  can  do  no  harm,  and  is  merely  one  useless  manuscript 
or  typescript  added  to  a  million  others. 

In  this  instance,  however,  the  decision  to  send  in  a 
report  did  much  harm,  alas,  to  an  inoffensive  man  of 
genius,  for  it  involved  asking  a  series  of  questions,  and  the 
third  of  them  brought  suspicious  circumstances  to  light. 

"Your  full  name?" 

"Jacob  Mendel." 

"Occupation?" 

"Book-pedlar"  (for,  as  already  explained,  Mendel  had 
no  shop,  but  only  a  pedlar's  license). 

"Place  of  birth?" 

Now  came  the  disaster.  Mendel's  birthplace  was  not 
far  from  Petrikau.  The  major  raised  his  eyebrows.  Petri- 
kau,  or  Piotrkov,  was  across  the  frontier,  in  Russian 
Poland. 

"You  were  born  a  Russian  subject.  When  did  you 
acquire  Austrian  nationality?  Show  me  your  papers." 

Mendel  gazed  at  the  officer  uncomprehendingly  through 
his  spectacles. 

136 


Stefan  Zweig 

"Papers?  Identification  papers?  I  have  nothing  but 
my  hawker's  license." 

"What's  your  nationality,  then?  Was  your  father 
Austrian  or  Russian?" 

Undismayed,  Mendel  answered: 

"A  Russian,  of  course." 

"What  about  yourself?" 

"Wishing  to  evade  Russian  military  service,  I  slipped 
across  the  frontier  thirty-three  years  ago,  and  ever  since 
I  have  lived  in  Vienna." 

The  matter  seemed  to  the  major  to  be  growing  worse 
and  worse. 

"But  didn't  you  take  steps  to  become  an  Austrian 
subject?" 

"Why  should  I?"  countered  Mendel.  "I  never  troubled 
my  head  about  such  things." 

"Then  you  are  still  a  Russian  subject?" 

Mendel,  who  was  bored  by  this  endless  questioning, 
answered  simply: 

"Yes,  I  suppose  I  am." 

The  startled  and  indignant  major  threw  himself  back 
in  his  chair  with  such  violence  that  the  wood  cracked  pro- 
testingly.  So  this  was  what  it  had  come  to!  In  Vienna, 
the  Austrian  capital,  at  the  end  of  1915,  after  Tarnow, 
when  the  war  was  in  full  blast,  after  the  great  offensive,  a 
Russian  could  walk  about  unmolested,  could  write  letters 
to  France  and  England,  while  the  police  ignored  his 
machinations.  And  then  the  fools  who  wrote  in  the  news- 
papers wondered  why  Conrad  von  Hotzendorf  had  not 
advanced  in  seven-leagued  boots  to  Warsaw,  and  the 
general  staff  was  puzzled  because  every  movement  of  the 
troops  was  immediately  blabbed  to  the  Russians. 

The  lieutenant  had  sprung  to  his  feet  and  crossed  the 
room  to  his  chiefs  table.  What  had  been  an  almost 
friendly  conversation  took  a  new  turn,  and  degenerated 
into  a  trial. 

137 


Buchmendel 

"Why  didn't  you  report  as  an  enemy  alien  directly  the 
war  began?" 

Mendel,  still  failing  to  realize  the  gravity  of  his  position, 
answered  in  his  singing  Jewish  jargon: 

"Why  should  I  report?     I  don't  understand." 

The  major  regarded  this  inquiry  as  a  challenge,  and 
asked  threateningly: 

"Didn't  you  read  the  notices  that  were  posted  up  every- 
where?" 

"No." 

"Didn't  you  read  the  newspapers?" 

"No." 

The  two  officers  stared  at  Jacob  Mendel  (now  sweating 
with  uneasiness)  as  if  the  moon  had  fallen  from  the  sky 
into  their  office.  Then  the  telephone  buzzed,  the  type- 
writers clacked,  orderlies  ran  hither  and  thither,  and 
Mendel  was  sent  under  guard  to  the  nearest  barracks, 
where  he  was  to  await  transfer  to  a  concentration  camp. 
When  he  was  ordered  to  follow  the  two  soldiers,  he  was 
frankly  puzzled,  but  not  seriously  perturbed.  What  could 
the  man  with  the  gold-lace  collar  and  the  rough  voice 
have  against  him?  In  the  upper  world  of  books,  where 
Mendel  lived  and  breathed  and  had  his  being,  there  was 
no  warfare,  there  were  no  misunderstandings,  only  an 
ever-increasing  knowledge  of  words  and  figures,  of  book- 
titles  and  authors'  names.  He  walked  good-humouredly 
enough  downstairs  between  the  soldiers,  whose  first  charge 
was  to  take  him  to  the  police  station.  Not  until,  there, 
the  books  were  taken  out  of  his  overcoat  pockets,  and  the 
police  impounded  the  portfolio  containing  a  hundred  im- 
portant memoranda  and  customers'  addresses,  did  he  lose 
his  temper,  and  begin  to  resist  and  strike  blows.  They 
had  to  tie  his  hands.  In  the  struggle,  his  spectacles  fell  off, 
and  these  magical  telescopes,  without  which  he  could  not 
see  into  the  wonderworld  of  books,  were  smashed  into  a 
thousand  pieces.  Two  days  later,  insufficiently  clad  (for 

138 


Stefan  Zweig 

his  only  wrap  was  a  light  summer  cloak),  he  was  sent  to 
the  internment  camp  for  Russian  civilians  at  Komorn. 

I  have  no  information  as  to  what  Jacob  Mendel  suffered 
during  these  two  years  of  internment,  cut  off  from  his 
beloved  books,  penniless,  among  roughly  nurtured  men, 
few  of  whom  could  read  or  write,  in  a  huge  human  dung- 
hill. This  must  be  left  to  the  imagination  of  those  who 
can  grasp  the  torments  of  a  caged  eagle.  By  degrees, 
however,  our  world,  grown  sober  after  its  fit  of  drunken- 
ness, has  become  aware  that,  of  all  the  cruelties  and 
wanton  abuses  of  power  during  the  war,  the  most  needless 
and  therefore  the  most  inexcusable  was  this  herding  to- 
gether behind  barbed-wire  fences  of  thousands  upon 
thousands  of  persons  who  had  outgrown  the  age  of  mili- 
tary service,  who  had  made  homes  for  themselves  in  a 
foreign  land,  and  who  (believing  in  the  good  faith  of  their 
hosts)  had  refrained  from  exercising  the  sacred  right  of 
hospitality  granted  even  by  the  Tunguses  and  Arauca- 
nians — the  right  to  flee  while  time  permits.  This  crime 
against  civilization  was  committed  with  the  same  un- 
thinking hardihood  in  France,  Germany,  and  Britain,  in 
every  belligerent  country  of  our  crazy  Europe. 

Probably  Jacob  Mendel  would,  like  thousands  as  inno- 
cent as  he,  have  perished  in  this  cattle-pen,  have  gone 
stark  mad,  have  succumbed  to  dysentery,  asthenia,  soft- 
ening of  the  brain,  had  it  not  been  that,  before  the  worst 
happened,  a  chance  (typically  Austrian)  recalled  him  to 
the  world  in  which  a  spiritual  life  became  again  possible. 
Several  times  after  his  disappearance,  letters  from  dis- 
tinguished customers  were  delivered  for  him  at  the  Cafe 
Gluck.  Count  Schonberg,  sometime  lord-lieutenant  of 
Styria,  an  enthusiastic  collector  of  works  on  heraldry; 
Siegenfeld,  the  former  dean  of  the  theological  faculty, 
who  was  writing  a  commentary  on  the  works  of  St. 
Augustine;  Edler  von  Pisek,  an  octogenarian  admiral  on 
the  retired  list,  engaged  in  writing  his  memoirs — these 

139 


Buchmendel 

and  other  persons  of  note,  wanting  information  from  Buch- 
mendel, had  repeatedly  addressed  communications  to  him 
at  his  familiar  haunt,  and  some  of  these  were  duly  for- 
warded to  the  concentration  camp  at  Komorn.  There 
they  fell  into  the  hands  of  the  commanding  officer,  who 
happened  to  be  a  man  of  humane  disposition,  and  was 
astonished  to  find  what  notables  were  among  the  corre- 
spondents of  this  dirty  little  Russian  Jew,  who,  half-blind 
now  that  his  spectacles  were  broken  and  he  had  no  money 
to  buy  new  ones,  crouched  in  a  corner  like  a  mole,  grey, 
eyeless,  and  dumb.  A  man  who  had  such  patrons  must 
be  a  person  of  importance,  whatever  he  looked  like.  The 
C.O.  therefore  read  the  letters  to  the  short-sighted  Mendel, 
and  penned  answers  for  him  to  sign — answers  which  were 
mainly  requests  that  influence  should  be  exercised  on  his 
behalf.  The  spell  worked,  for  these  correspondents  had 
the  solidarity  of  collectors.  Joining  forces  and  pulling 
strings  they  were  able  (giving  guarantees  for  the  "enemy 
alien's"  good  behaviour)  to  secure  leave  for  Buchmendel's 
return  to  Vienna  in  1917,  after  more  than  two  years  at 
Komorn — on  the  condition  that  he  should  report  daily  to 
the  police.  The  proviso  mattered  little.  He  was  a  free 
man  once  more,  free  to  take  up  his  quarters  in  his  old 
attic,  free  to  handle  books  again,  free  (above  all)  to  return 
to  his  table  in  the  Cafe  Gluck.  I  can  describe  the  return 
from  the  underworld  of  the  camp  in  the  good  Frau  Spor- 
schil's  own  words: 

"One  day — Jesus,  Mary,  Joseph;  I  could  hardly  believe 
my  eyes — the  door  opened  (you  remember  the  way  he  had) 
little  wider  than  a  crack,  and  through  this  opening  he 
sidled,  poor  Herr  Mendel.  He  was  wearing  a  tattered 
and  much-darned  military  cloak,  and  his  head  was  covered 
by  what  had  perhaps  once  been  a  hat  thrown  away  by 
the  owner  as  past  use.  No  collar.  His  face  looked  like  a 
death's  head,  so  haggard  it  was,  and  his  hair  was  pitifully 
thin.  But  he  came  in  as  if  nothing  had  happened,  went 

140 


Stefan  Zweig 

straight  to  his  table,  and  took  off  his  cloak,  not  briskly 
as  of  old,  for  he  panted  with  the  exertion.  Nor  had  he 
any  books  with  him.  He  just  sat  there  without  a  word, 
staring  straight  in  front  of  him  with  hollow,  expression- 
less eyes.  Only  by  degrees,  after  we  had  brought  him  the 
big  bundle  of  printed  matter  which  had  arrived  for  him 
from  Germany,  did  he  begin  to  read  again.  But  he  was 
never  the  same  man." 

No,  he  was  never  the  same  man,  not  now  the  miraculum 
mundi,  the  magical  walking  book-catalogue.  All  who  saw 
him  in  those  days  told  me  the  same  pitiful  story.  Some- 
thing had  gone  irrecoverably  wrong;  he  was  broken;  the 
blood-red  comet  of  the  war  had  burst  into  the  remote, 
calm  atmosphere  of  his  bookish  world.  His  eyes,  accus- 
tomed for  decades  to  look  at  nothing  but  print,  must  have 
seen  terrible  sights  in  the  wire-fenced  human  stockyard, 
for  the  eyes  that  had  formerly  been  so  alert  and  full  of 
ironical  gleams  were  now  almost  completely  veiled  by  the 
inert  lids,  and  looked  sleepy  and  red-bordered  behind  the 
carefully  repaired  spectacle-frames.  Worse  still,  a  cog 
must  have  broken  somewhere  in  the  marvellous  machinery 
of  his  memory,  so  that  the  working  of  the  whole  was  im- 
paired; for  so  delicate  is  the  structure  of  the  brain  (a  sort 
of  switchboard  made  of  the  most  fragile  substances,  and 
as  easily  jarred  as  are  all  instruments  of  precision)  that  a 
blocked  arteriole,  a  congested  bundle  of  nerve-fibres,  a 
fatigued  group  of  cells,  even  a  displaced  molecule,  may 
put  the  apparatus  out  of  gear  and  make  harmonious  work- 
ing impossible.  In  Mendel's  memory,  the  keyboard  of 
knowledge,  the  keys  were  stiff,  or — to  use  psychological 
terminology — the  associations  were  impaired.  When, 
now  and  again,  someone  came  to  ask  for  information, 
Jacob  stared  blankly  at  the  inquirer,  failing  to  understand 
the  question,  and  even  forgetting  it  before  he  had  found 
the  answer.  Mendel  was  no  longer  Buchmendel,  just  as 
the  world  was  no  longer  the  world.  He  could  not  now 

141 


Buchmendel 

become  wholly  absorbed  in  his  reading,  did  not  rock  as 
of  old  when  he  read,  but  sat  bolt  upright,  his  glasses 
turned  mechanically  towards  the  printed  page,  but  per- 
haps not  reading  at  all,  and  only  sunk  in  a  reverie.  Often, 
said  Frau  Sporschil,  his  head  would  drop  on  to  his  book 
and  he  would  fall  asleep  in  the  daytime,  or  he  would  gaze 
hour  after  hour  at  the  stinking  acetylene  lamp  which 
(in  the  days  of  the  coal  famine)  had  replaced  the  electric 
lighting.  No,  Mendel  was  no  longer  Buchmendel,  no 
longer  the  eighth  wonder  of  the  world,  but  a  weary,  worn- 
out,  though  still  breathing,  useless  bundle  of  beard  and 
ragged  garments,  which  sat,  as  futile  as  a  potato-bogle, 
where  of  old  the  Pythian  oracle  had  sat;  no  longer  the 
glory  of  the  Cafe  Gluck,  but  a  shameful  scarecrow,  evil- 
smelling,  a  parasite. 

That  was  the  impression  he  produced  upon  the  new 
proprietor,  Florian  Gurtner  from  Retz,  who  (a  successful 
profiteer  in  flour  and  butter)  had  cajoled  Standhartner 
into  selling  him  the  Cafe  Gluck  for  eighty  thousand  rapidly 
depreciating  paper  crowns.  He  took  everything  into  his 
hard  peasant  grip,  hastily  arranged  to  have  the  old  place 
redecorated,  bought  fine-looking  satin-covered  seats,  in- 
stalled a  marble  porch,  and  was  in  negotiation  with  his 
next-door  neighbour  to  buy  a  place  where  he  could  ex- 
tend the  cafe  into  a  dancing-hall.  Naturally  while  he  was 
making  these  embellishments,  he  was  not  best  pleased  by 
the  parasitic  encumbrance  of  Jacob  Mendel,  a  filthy  old 
Galician  Jew,  who  had  been  in  trouble  with  the  authorities 
during  the  war,  was  still  to  be  regarded  as  an  "enemy 
alien,"  and,  while  occupying  a  table  from  morning  till 
night,  consumed  no  more  than  two  cups  of  coffee  and 
four  or  five  rolls.  Standhartner,  indeed,  had  put  in  a 
word  for  this  guest  of  long  standing,  had  explained  that 
Mendel  was  a  person  of  note,  and,  in  the  stock-taking, 
had  handed  him  over  as  having  a  permanent  lien  upon 
the  establishment,  but  as  an  asset  rather  than  a  liability. 

142 


Stefan  Zweig 

Florian  Gurtner,  however,  had  brought  into  the  cafe,  not 
only  new  furniture,  and  an  up-to-date  cash  register,  but 
also  the  profit-making  and  hard  temper  of  the  post-war 
era,  and  awaited  the  first  pretext  for  ejecting  from  his 
smart  coffee-house  the  last  troublesome  vestige  of  sub- 
urban shabbiness. 

A  good  excuse  was  not  slow  to  present  itself.  Jacob 
Mendel  was  impoverished  to  the  last  degree.  Such  bank- 
notes as  had  been  left  to  him  had  crumbled  away  to 
nothing  during  the  inflation  period;  his  regular  clientele 
had  been  killed,  ruined,  or  dispersed.  When  he  tried  to 
resume  his  early  trade  of  book-pedlar,  calling  from  door 
to  door  to  buy  and  to  sell,  he  found  that  he  lacked  strength 
to  carry  books  up  and  down  stairs.  A  hundred  little  signs 
showed  him  to  be  a  pauper.  Seldom,  now,  did  he  have  a 
midday  meal  sent  in  from  the  restaurant,  and  he  began 
to  run  up  a  score  at  the  Cafe  Gluck  for  his  modest  break- 
fast and  supper.  Once  his  payments  were  as  much  as 
three  weeks  overdue.  Were  it  only  for  this  reason,  the 
head-waiter  wanted  Gurtner  to  "give  Mendel  the  sack." 
But  Frau  Sporschil  intervened,  and  stood  surety  for  the 
debtor.  What  was  due  could  be  stopped  out  of  her  wages! 

This  staved  off  disaster  for  a  while,  but  worse  was  to 
come.  For  some  time  the  head-waiter  had  noticed  that 
rolls  were  disappearing  faster  than  the  tally  would  account 
for.  Naturally  suspicion  fell  upon  Mendel,  who  was 
known  to  be  six  months  in  debt  to  the  tottering  old  porter 
whose  services  he  still  needed.  The  head-waiter,  hidden 
behind  the  stove,  was  able,  two  days  later,  to  catch  Mendel 
red-handed.  The  unwelcome  guest  had  stolen  from  his 
seat  in  the  card-room,  crept  behind  the  counter  in  the 
front  room,  taken  two  rolls  from  the  bread-basket,  re- 
turned to  the  card-room,  and  hungrily  devoured  them. 
When  settling-up  at  the  end  of  the  day,  he  said  he  had 
only  had  coffee;  no  rolls.  The  source  of  wastage  had  been 
traced,  and  the  waiter  reported  his  discovery  to  the  pro- 

H3 


Buchmendel 

prietor.  Herr  Gurtner,  delighted  to  have  so  good  an 
excuse  for  getting  rid  of  Mendel,  made  a  scene,  openly 
accused  him  of  theft,  and  declared  that  nothing  but  the 
goodness  of  his  own  heart  prevented  his  sending  for  the 
police. 

"But  after  this,"  said  Florian,  "you'll  kindly  take 
yourself  off  for  good  and  all.  We  don't  want  to  see  your 
face  again  at  the  Cafe  Gluck." 

Jacob  Mendel  trembled,  but  made  no  reply.  Abandon- 
ing his  poor  belongings,  he  departed  without  a  word. 

"It  was  ghastly,"  said  Frau  Sporschil.  "Never  shall  I 
forget  the  sight.  He  stood  up,  his  spectacles  pushed  on  to 
his  forehead,  and  his  face  white  as  a  sheet.  He  did  not 
even  stop  to  put  on  his  cloak,  although  it  was  January, 
and  very  cold.  You'll  remember  that  severe  winter,  just 
after  the  war.  In  his  fright,  he  left  the  book  he  was  reading 
open  upon  the  table.  I  did  not  notice  it  at  first,  and  then, 
when  I  wanted  to  pick  it  up  and  take  it  after  him,  he  had 
already  stumbled  out  through  the  doorway.  I  was  afraid 
to  follow  him  into  the  street,  for  Herr  Gurtner  was  stand- 
ing at  the  door  and  shouting  at  him,  so  that  a  crowd  had 
gathered.  Yet  I  felt  ashamed  to  the  depths  of  my  soul. 
Such  a  thing  would  never  have  happened  under  the  old 
master.  Herr  Standhartner  would  not  have  driven  Herr 
Mendel  away  for  pinching  one  or  two  rolls  when  he  was 
hungry,  but  would  have  let  him  have  as  many  as  he 
wanted  for  nothing,  to  the  end  of  his  days.  Since  the 
war,  people  seem  to  have  grown  heartless.  Drive  away  a 
man  who  had  been  a  guest  daily  for  so  many,  many  years. 
Shameful!  I  should  not  like  to  have  to  answer  before  God 
for  such  cruelty!" 

The  good  woman  had  grown  excited,  and,  with  the 
passionate  garrulousness  of  old  age,  she  kept  on  repeating 
how  shameful  it  was,  and  that  nothing  of  the  sort  would 
have  happened  if  Herr  Standhartner  had  not  sold  the 
business.  In  the  end  I  tried  to  stop  the  flow  by  asking 

144 


Stefan  Zweig 

her  what  had  happened  to  Mendel,  and  whether  she  had 
ever  seen  him  again.  These  questions  excited  her  yet 
more. 

"Day  after  day,  when  I  passed  his  table,  it  gave  me  the 
creeps,  as  you  will  easily  understand.  Each  time  I  thought 
to  myself:  'Where  can  he  have  got  to,  poor  Herr  Mendel?' 
Had  I  known  where  he  lived,  I  would  have  called  and 
taken  him  something  nice  and  hot  to  eat — for  where  could 
he  get  the  money  to  cook  food  and  warm  his  room?  As 
far  as  I  knew,  he  had  no  kinsfolk  in  the  wide  world.  When, 
after  a  long  time,  I  had  heard  nothing  about  him,  I  began 
to  believe  that  it  must  be  all  up  with  him,  and  that  I 
should  never  see  him  again.  I  had  made  up  my  mind  to 
have  a  mass  said  for  the  peace  of  his  soul,  knowing  him 
to  be  a  good  man,  after  twenty-five  years'  acquaintance. 

"At  length  one  day  in  February,  at  half-past  seven  in 
the  morning,  when  I  was  cleaning  the  windows,  the  door 
opened,  and  in  came  Herr  Mendel.  Generally,  as  you 
know,  he  sidled  in,  looking  confused,  and  not  '  quite  all 
there';  but  this  time,  somehow,  it  was  different.  I  noticed 
at  once  the  strange  look  in  his  eyes;  they  were  sparkling, 
and  he  rolled  them  this  way  and  that,  as  if  to  see  every- 
thing at  once;  as  for  his  appearance,  he  seemed  nothing 
but  beard  and  skin  and  bone.  Instantly  it  crossed  my 
mind:  'He's  forgotten  all  that  happened  last  time  he  was 
here;  it's  his  way  to  go  about  like  a  sleepwalker  noticing 
nothing;  he  doesn't  remember  about  the  rolls,  and  how 
shamefully  Herr  Gurtner  ordered  him  out  of  the  place, 
half  in  mind  to  set  the  police  on  him.'  Thank  goodness, 
Herr  Gurtner  hadn't  come  yet,  and  the  head-waiter  was 
drinking  coffee.  I  ran  up  to  Herr  Mendel,  meaning  to 
tell  him  he'd  better  make  himself  scarce,  for  otherwise 
that  ruffian"  [she  looked  round  timidly  to  see  if  we  were 
overheard,  and  hastily  amended  her  phrase],  "Herr  Gurt- 
ner, I  mean,  would  only  have  him  thrown  into  the  street 
once  more.  'Herr  Mendel,'  I  began.  He  started,  and 

I4S 


Buchmendel 

looked  at  me.  In  that  very  moment  (it  was  dreadful),  he 
must  have  remembered  the  whole  thing,  for  he  almost 
collapsed,  and  began  to  tremble,  not  his  fingers  only,  but 
to  shiver  and  shake  from  head  to  foot.  Hastily  he  stepped 
back  into  the  street,  and  fell  in  a  heap  on  the  pavement 
as  soon  as  he  was  outside  the  door.  We  telephoned  for 
the  ambulance,  and  they  carried  him  off  to  hospital,  the 
nurse  who  came  saying  he  had  high  fever  directly  she 
touched  him.  He  died  that  evening.  'Double  pneumonia,' 
the  doctor  said,  and  that  he  never  recovered  conscious- 
ness— could  not  have  been  fully  conscious  when  he  came 
to  the  Cafe  Gluck.  As  I  said,  he  had  entered  like  a  man 
walking  in  his  sleep.  The  table  where  he  had  sat  day 
after  day  for  thirty-six  years  drew  him  back  to  it  like  a 
home." 

Frau  Sporschil  and  I  went  on  talking  about  him  for  a 
long  time,  the  two  last  persons  to  remember  this  strange 
creature,  Buchmendel:  I  to  whom  in  youth  the  book- 
pedlar  from  Galicia  had  given  the  first  revelation  of  a  life 
wholly  devoted  to  the  things  of  the  spirit;  she,  the  poor 
old  woman  who  was  caretaker  of  a  cafe-toilet,  who  had 
never  read  a  book  in  her  life,  and  whose  only  tie  with  this 
strangely  matched  comrade  in  her  subordinate,  poverty- 
stricken  world  had  been  that  for  twenty-five  years  she 
had  brushed  his  overcoat  and  had  sewn  on  buttons  for 
him.  We,  too,  might  have  been  considered  strangely 
assorted,  but  Frau  Sporschil  and  I  got  on  very  well  to- 
gether, linked,  as  we  sat  at  the  forsaken  marble-topped 
table,  by  our  common  memories  of  the  shade  our  talk  had 
conjured  up — for  joint  memories,  and  above  all  loving 
memories,  always  establish  a  tie.  Suddenly,  while  in  the 
full  stream  of  talk,  she  exclaimed: 

"Lord  Jesus,  how  forgetful  I  am.  I  still  have  the  book 
he  left  on  the  table  the  evening  Herr  Gurtner  gave  him 
the  key  of  the  street.  I  didn't  know  where  to  take  it. 
Afterwards,  when  no  one  appeared  to  claim  it,  I  ventured 

146 


Stef  a  n  Zweig 

to  keep  it  as  a  souvenir.  You  don't  think  it  wrong  of  me, 
Sir?" 

She  went  to  a  locker  where  she  stored  some  of  the 
requisites  for  her  job,  and  produced  the  volume  for  my 
inspection.  I  found  it  hard  to  repress  a  smile,  for  I  was 
face  to  face  with  one  of  life's  little  ironies.  It  was  the 
second  volume  of  Hayn's  Bibliotheca  Germanorum  erotica 
et  curiosa,  a  compendium  of  gallant  literature  known  to 
every  book-collector.  "Habent  sua  fata  libelli!"  This 
scabrous  publication,  as  legacy  of  the  vanished  magician, 
had  fallen  into  toilworn  hands  which  had  perhaps  never 
held  any  other  printed  work  than  a  prayer-book.  Maybe 
I  was  not  wholly  successful  in  controlling  my  mirth,  for 
the  expression  of  my  face  seemed  to  perplex  the  worthy 
soul,  and  once  more  she  said: 

"You  don't  think  it  wrong  of  me  to  keep  it,  Sir?" 

I  shook  her  cordially  by  the  hand. 

"Keep  it,  and  welcome,"  I  said.  "I  am  absolutely  sure 
that  our  old  friend  Mendel  would  be  only  too  delighted 
to  know  that  someone  among  the  many  thousand  he  has 
provided  with  books,  cherishes  his  memory." 

Then  I  took  my  departure,  feeling  a  trifle  ashamed 
when  I  compared  myself  with  this  excellent  old  woman, 
who,  so  simply  and  so  humanely,  had  fostered  the  memory 
of  the  dead  scholar.  For  she,  uncultured  though  she  was, 
had  at  least  preserved  a  book  as  a  memento;  whereas  I,  a 
man  of  education  and  a  writer,  had  completely  forgotten 
Buchmendel  for  years — I,  who  at  least  should  have  known 
that  one  only  makes  books  in  order  to  keep  in  touch  with 
one's  fellows  after  one  has  ceased  to  breathe,  and  thus 
to  defend  oneself  against  the  inexorable  fate  of  all  that 
lives — transitoriness  and  oblivion. 


THE  MARCHESA 
by 

K.  Swinste ad-Smith 


K.  SWINSTEAD-SMITH  has  had  stories  published  in 
Lovat  Dickson's  Magazine,  Everyman,  The  Tatler,  and 
The  English  Review,  but  The  Marchpsa  and  Other  Stories 
is  her  first  published  book.  Calabria,  which  she  knows 
well,  is  the  scene  of  some  of  her  most  interesting  stories. 


THE  MARCHESA 

MARY  was  wakened  by  Viti. 
"Come,"  he  whispered.    "It  is  being  born." 
On  his  brooding  Italian  little  face  there  was  min- 
gled mystery  and  awe.    His  eyes,  with  their  blue  whites 
and  starry  brilliancy,  pleaded  and  impelled  at  the  same 
time.  His  pyjama  legs  were  falling  off,  and  he  clutched  at 
them  with  one  hand. 

Mary  had  no  need  to  be  told  what  was  being  born.  All 
day  yesterday  the  children  had  talked  of  nothing  but 
Meline,  the  cow;  and  Giacomo,  the  eldest  boy,  to  whom 
she  belonged,  had  sat  with  her  until  half  past  ten  stroking 
her  silky  ears.  As  Mary  put  on  her  kimono  and  twisted 
her  golden  plait  of  hair  into  a  knot,  she  felt  Viti's  eager 
little  hand  pulling  her  towards  the  doorway. 

"I'm  coming,  dear,"  she  said,  feeling  for  his  hand  in 
the  dark. 

Outside,  Calabria  lay  grey  and  unawakened.  Soon 
the  sun  would  come  out  of  the  Ionian  Sea,  turning  the 
dead  waters  to  living  pearl  and  then  to  aquamarine  and 
azure;  the  grass  round  the  olive  trees  would  ren$w  its 
emerald  perfection,  and  the  lizards  who  lived  there  would 
wake  up  and  dart  from  tree  to  tree  like  green  lightning; 
the  colour  would  flow  back  into  the  little  blue  gentians, 
and  the  old  stone  villa  in  which  Mary  was  staying  would 
glow  with  a  golden  warmth.  Life — throbbing,  pulsing 
life.  This  would  the  sun  accomplish.  Now  life  was 
smudged  and  dreamy;  only  below  in  one  of  the  huts  Mary 
heard  a  faint  lowing,  and  knew  that  even  in  this  greyness 
new  life  was  struggling. 

From  The  Marchesa  and  Other  Stories,  by  K.  Swinstead-Smith,  published  by 
The  Hogarth  Press,  London,  1936,  and  reprinted  by  permission  of  The  Hogarth 
Press. 


The  Marchesa 

"Listen  how  she  cries!"  whispered  Viti  as  they  went 
carefully  down  the  stone  stairs  together,  Mary  carrying 
a  candle  because  it  was  dark  still.  They  passed  out 
through  the  three-hundred-year-old  stone  doorway  into 
the  modern  garage.  Two  tiny,  yellow-breasted  birds  flew 
out  from  the  eaves  and  vanished,  tweeting,  into  the  grey- 
ness  beyond. 

The  barn  was  a  poor,  tumble-down  place,  very  like  the 
adjoining  huts,  which  were  occupied  by  the  Marchesa's 
peasant  workers.  A  white  mule  and  a  brown  horse  were 
tethered  to  a  piece  of  fence,  and  listened,  turning  restless, 
frightened  eyes,  to  the  dull  lowing  within. 

Giacomo,  who  was  nearly  twelve,  came  up  to  them.  He 
looked  like  an  angel  in  the  light  of  the  candle  he  carried; 
the  sweet  brooding  adolescence  of  his  face  was  heightened 
by  a  look  of  anguish;  he  would  throw  a  stone  at  a  stray 
dog,  but  the  cow  Meline  was  his,  and  he  suffered  with 
her.  Mary  understood  this,  and  did  not  speak  to  him. 

Round  the  barn  stood  a  silent  group  of  people.  In  the 
dark  grey  dawn  and  against  the  star-strewn  sky  they 
looked  indeed  as  if  they  were  waiting  for  a  message.  Mary 
knew  them  all,  but  in  the  drama  of  this  early  morning 
they  were  all  different.  There  stood  seventy-year-old 
Seraphina,  wrinkled  and  yellow,  her  head  tied  up  in  its 
black  rag,  motionless,  her  claw-like  hands  grasping  a 
stump  of  candle.  Next  to  her  was  Maria,  her  daughter,  a 
superb  Calabrian  peasant  woman.  How  often  Mary  had 
seen  her  swinging  through  the  olives,  her  lusty  baby  on 
her  back,  and  half  a  ton  of  water  balanced  fearlessly  on 
her  head.  Now  she  stood  like  a  Greek  statue,  her  naked 
feet  planted  deeply  into  the  earth,  holding  her  great  soft 
breast  to  her  child,  her  eyes  fixed  attentively  on  the 
closed  door  of  the  barn. 

So  they  all  stood  and  waited. 

"It  won't  be  long  now,  Miss  Graham,"  whispered  the 
Marchesa. 


K.  Swinstead-Smith 

She  had  a  black  coat  wrapped  round  her  up  to  the  chin 
— her  dusty,  badly  kept  hair  hung  down  on  either  side  of 
her  white,  heavy,  youngish  face.  She  spoke  English 
huskily  with  a  beautiful  accent. 

She  took  Viti's  hand  and  felt  it  quivering. 

"Little  excited  boy,"  she  said,  smiling  her  strange, 
slow  smile. 

Viti  struggled  to  get  his  hand  away,  his  eyes  fixed  on 
the  barn. 

The  elder  boys  were  creeping  in  and  out  of  the  barn. 
They  had  always  known  the  meaning  of  birth  and  death. 

"I  want  to  see,  too,"  said  Viti,  breathlessly,  turning  up 
his  eyes  to  Mary.  "Let  me  go." 

She  let  him  go  and  he  darted  away.  Presently  he  came 
back  breathing  rather  hard.  Mary  put  her  arm  round 
him;  he  was  trembling — he  was  only  seven. 

Luigi,  the  second  boy,  left  off  going  into  the  barn.  He 
stood  among  the  peasants,  his  heavy,  cupped,  dark  eyes 
half  shut.  He  looked  older  than  Giacomo,  although  he 
was  only  ten.  Once  he  picked  up  a  stone  and  hurled  it  at 
the  little  pariah  puppy  that  was  standing  shivering  at  the 
entrance  of  the  vineyard. 

" Basta"  said  Mary  under  her  breath  at  him.  "Capite, 
basta." 

He  looked  her  up  and  down  with  his  somnolent  brown 
eyes. 

Mary  drew  her  kimono  tighter  round  her  and  bent 
to  speak  to  Viti.  Luigi  must  never  know  that  she  minded 
his  eyes — a  child  of  ten — it  was  ridiculous! 

Suddenly  Brunone  came  out  of  the  barn  smiling.  He  was 
brown  as  the  earth,  and  he  had  a  strange  grace  about  him. 

"  Ecco"  he  said  straightening  himself.  "Tutto  e  bene, 
Signora  Marchesa.  Com'e  carina  la  vitella!"  and  he  went 
away  to  the  well  to  wash  his  hands. 

Each  in  turn  they  went  into  the  dark  foetid  barn  to 
see  the  little  new  life.  Giacomo  stood  in  the  doorway,  and 

IS3 


The  Marchesa 

the  peasants  took  their  orders  from  him  quietly  and  doc- 
ilely. Viti  went  in  with  Mary.  Meline  stood  tied  up  at 
one  end  of  the  barn,  her  eyes  still  rolling  with  fright.  In 
the  dark  hay  lay  the  little  calf  trembling  with  new  life. 
Viti  stood  rigid,  looking  down  at  it. 

"Born,"  he  said  wonderingly,  and  gave  a  great  shud- 
dering sigh  of  delight. 

Going  back  to  the  house,  Mary  saw  that  the  sun  was 
already  up.  Viti  had  left  her  suddenly,  tearing  away  to 
join  the  others.  She  knew  that  it  was  no  use  going  to  bed 
again,  for  soon  the  children  would  go  shouting  into  the 
strange  primitive  bathroom  and  the  tutor  would  turn  on 
the  shower.  She  had  not  seen  the  tutor  at  the  barn — 
perhaps,  poor  young  man,  he  had  no  dressing-gown.  But 
surely  such  a  little  thing  as  that  would  not  matter  in 
Calabria.  Still,  he  was  very  shy.  She  washed  and  dressed. 
It  was  time  to  go  and  bath  Viti,  if  Seraphina  had  got  the 
stove  going,  throwing  in  twig  after  twig  with  her  old 
gnarled  hands  as  if  for  a  sacrifice. 

She  had  to  go  through  the  Marchesa's  room  to  get  to 
him,  for  all  the  rooms  in  the  house  led  out  of  one  another. 
The  Marchesa  had  evidently  been  to  sleep  again,  for  as 
Mary  went  in  she  was  waking  up,  pushing  the  blue  crepe 
de  Chine  sheets  down  to  her  waist,  shaking  her  dull  hair 
out  of  her  eyes,  stretching  and  yawning  again  and  again, 
her  large  white  teeth  snapping  between  every  yawn.  With 
her  long  white  Italian  hand  she  began  to  scratch  her  back 
and  her  right  breast,  large  and  curved  under  the  soiled 
nightdress — Calabrian  fleas  were  persistent,  and  although 
everyone  in  the  house  had  scarves  pinned  round  their 
beds,  which  kept  off  the  multitude,  there  were  always  a 
few  stray  ones. 

"Is  that  you,  Miss  Graham?"  she  said  in  her  slow 
Southern  drawl.  She  lay  still,  her  hands  clasped  behind 
her  neck,  the  long  dark  silky  hairs  in  her  arm-pits  glisten- 
ing with  perspiration. 

154 


K.  Swinstead-Smith 

"I'm  just  going  to  bath  Viti,"  said  Mary. 

"How  excited  he  was — my  baby."  The  Marchesa's 
great  purple-blue  eyes  softened.  "How  am  I  going  to 
leave  them  for  a  fortnight,  Miss  Graham?" 

"What  time  is  your  train?" 

"I  leave  here  at  twelve.  I  reach  Naples  tomorrow.  If 
only  it  wasn't  necessary  for  me  to  go!  But  I  must  go — I 
am  going  to  try  and  get  a  man  acquitted — a  negro.  My 
friends  say,  Why  bother  about  a  negro;  but  I  say,  a  negro 
is  a  man,  and  he  is  in  my  service,  and  if  he  is  convicted  he 
will  get  ten  years  in  prison,  so  my  lawyers  and  I  are  going 
to  make  a  fight." 

"It's  wonderful  of  you  to  take  such  an  interest,"  mur- 
mured Mary. 

"What  else  could  a  civilized  person  do." 

A  civilized  person!  Mary  looked  at  her.  No,  she 
thought,  intelligent,  interesting,  cultured  even,  but  not 
civilized.  Suddenly  her  eyes  met  those  of  the  Marchesa. 
They  had  turned  almost  black,  they  held  her  mesmerized; 
they  wandered  from  her  golden  plaits  of  hair  neatly  coiled 
to  the  fresh  washing  silk  frock  and  the  slim,  straight- 
drawn  silk  stockings. 

"Go  and  bath  Viti  now,  please,  Miss  Graham,"  she 
said,  smiling  still,  but  hissing  the  words  between  her  shut 
teeth.  Quietly  Mary  went. 

"She's  like  an  animal,"  thought  the  English  girl,  as 
she  stood  looking  out  of  the  window  in  the  bathroom  with 
her  back  to  Viti. 

Viti  was  easily  shamed. 

"No,  no,  no,  no,  no,"  he  cried  as  she  turned  round, 
clutching  his  pyjamas  round  his  skinny  little  boy's  body. 
He  did  not  mind  her  ministrations  when  he  was  in  the 
bath,  for  he  thought  the  water  covered  him  up,  and  by 
the  time  he  was  out  of  it  he  had  forgotten  to  be  ashamed. 

"Why  do  I  feel  as  if  something  is  going  to  happen?" 
thought  Mary,  as  she  rubbed  the  little  boy  under  his  arms. 

155 


The  Marchesa 

He  stood  like  a  baby  Christ  with  his  arms  outstretched, 
his  blue  eyes  mysteriously  dark  and  brooding,  his  bright 
pink  lips  parted.  He  watched  intently  the  little  drops  of 
water  that  fell  plonk,  plonk,  on  to  the  floor  from  his  hair. 
He  bent  down  and  put  his  finger  wonderingly  into  one  of 
the  drops,  and  then  showed  the  finger  to  Mary  and 
laughed.  His  tiny  milk  teeth  were  like  a  calf's.  He 
jumped  about  the  bathroom  in  his  combinations,  singing 
little  bits,  calling  to  himself,  making  little  imaginary 
birds  fly  away  from  his  fingers.  Suddenly  he  came  up  to 
Mary  and  punched  her  with  a  doubled-up  fist.  She 
smacked  his  hand  and  he  laughed  again. 

"Animals,"  thought  Mary  again,  " interesting  enough, 
but  just  animals." 

As  she  came  down  to  breakfast  she  caught  glimpses  at 
every  window  of  the  Ionian  Sea,  blue-purple  now  like  a 
piece  of  rich  cloth  with  a  white  selvage.  She  passed 
Brunone  staggering  into  the  kitchen  with  two  water- 
barrels  on  his  back.  His  eyes  were  bright  blue  in  his 
brown  face,  his  muscles  rippled  all  over  his  body. 

They  were  already  seated  at  the  long  trestle  table  when 
she  came  in,  except  for  the  Marchesa,  who  breakfasted 
in  bed. 

This  room  had  been  a  refectory  in  olden  times;  there 
were  still  frescoes  on  the  walls,  but  the  little  cells  of  the 
monks  had  been  turned  into  glass-pantries  and  linen- 
cupboards.  Two  slender  carved  pillars  stood  near  to- 
gether in  the  middle  of  the  room  and  took  the  weight  of 
the  ceiling.  Beside  each  of  these  stood  a  Sicilian  water- 
barrel,  brightly  decorated,  filled  with  decaying  orange- 
peel  and  cigarette  ends.  These  were  never  emptied  from 
year's  end  to  year's  end.  Everybody  ate  oranges — they 
lay  about  all  over  the  house — the  barrels  were  convenient 
for  disposing  of  the  peel.  The  tutor  and  the  boys  stood 
up  when  she  came  in.  She  said  good-morning  to  the 
tutor  in  French,  for  he  did  not  speak  English,  and  her 

156 


K.  Swinstead-Smith 

Italian  was  still  far  from  perfect.  She  would  have  liked 
to  have  spoken  Italian  with  him  for  practice,  but 
somehow  she  did  not  quite  like  to  leave  off  speaking 
French. 

He  was  a  strange,  quiet  young  man.  He  seemed  to 
have  no  possessions  except  his  Dante  and  commentary, 
and  a  pair  of  carpet  slippers,  which  he  kept  under  an  old 
Italian  grammar.  Mary  had  to  go  through  his  room  every 
time  to  reach  the  bathroom,  but  she  never  saw  anything 
personal  about.  And  yet  he  dressed  quite  well,  but  more 
like  an  estate  agent  than  a  tutor.  He  liked  to  dictate  to 
the  peasants,  and  was  in  his  element  dealing  out  the  seeds 
to  them,  which  he  did  once  a  week  on  the  old  brown  table 
in  the  refectory  where  the  seeds  were  kept.  Sometimes  he 
rolled  his  shirt-sleeves  up  to  weigh  them  out,  and  his  arms 
were  boyish  and  thin  and  well-shaped.  He  always  pulled 
them  down  directly  Mary  came  into  the  room.  His  hair 
was  exuberant  and  refused  to  lie  flat,  so  he  cut  it  very 
short,  almost  like  a  convict.  He  had  full  Italian  lips  and 
nice,  kind,  hazel  eyes.  He  came  from  the  north,  from 
Milan.  He  used  to  cut  figures  out  of  magazines  sometimes 
and  made  them  walk  about  and  talk.  Viti  would  sit  on 
the  edge  of  his  knee  and  watch  these  figures  breathlessly, 
and  sometimes  he  got  quite  as  excited  as  the  little  boy. 
He  had  a  framed  medallion  of  the  Virgin  hanging  over  his 
bed,  but  he  never  appeared  to  go  to  Mass.  He  kept  a 
photo  of  all  the  children  in  his  pocket-book,  but  he  boxed 
their  ears  for  next  to  nothing,  and  he  had  much  too  vio- 
lent a  temper  to  be  a  good  teacher. 

"Good-morning,  Miss,"  said  Luigi.  In  his  sleepy 
almond-shaped  eyes  there  was  a  hint  of  mockery.  "Viti, 
silly  ass,"  he  remarked  in  execrable  English.  They  learnt 
those  kinds  of  remarks  in  English  very  quickly. 

"Good-for-nothing  fool!"  shouted  the  tutor.  "Rude, 
saucy  imp!" 

Luigi  grovelled,  but  recovered  immediately. 

IS7 


The  Marchesa 

"Beautiful  Miss,"  he  remarked  over  the  top  of  his  cup 
of  coffee  and  milk. 

Mary  turned  away  and  asked  the  tutor  why  he  had  not 
been  at  the  barn,  and  Giacomo,  feeding  Ivan,  the  wolf- 
hound, under  the  table  with  bread  and  marmalade, 
launched  into  a  description  of  the  little  calf  and  the 
difficulty  Meline  had  had  in  producing  her.  It  seemed  im- 
possible to  Mary  that  it  was  only  three  hours  ago — that 
grey,  dim  silence.  Through  the  window  she  watched  five 
peasants  move  languorously  across  the  fields,  their  soft, 
swinging  limbs  as  rhythmical  as  the  burling  splash  of  the 
waves.  In  the  distance  two  thin  oxen  had  started  their 
pitiful,  blindfolded  circle. 

They  had  barely  finished  breakfast  when  the  Marchesa 
came  downstairs.  She  walked  beautifully  from  the  hips, 
and  her  large  round  breasts  hung  loose  inside  her  dress. 
The  dress  had  once  come  from  the  Rue  de  la  Paix,  but  hard 
usage  had  sadly  altered  its  lines;  there  were  marks  too 
down  the  front  where  she  had  spilt  food.  Mary  wondered 
whether  she  had  even  brushed  her  hair,  and  her  sleepy 
white  face  might  or  might  not  have  seen  water.  And  yet 
she  was  beautiful — strangely,  terribly  beautiful,  as  Ca- 
labria was  beautiful.  And  with  her  came  that  strange  dis- 
turbing atmosphere,  that  sense  of  tremendous  vitality 
and  power,  that  like  an  animal  lay  sleeping  in  the  sun, 
but  which  could  wake  viciously,  fiercely.  And  she  always 
looks  like  this,  thought  Mary,  thinking  of  the  luxurious 
flat  she  had  been  to  in  Naples,  of  the  Palazzo  in  Florence. 

The  Marchesa  stood  for  a  while  lifting  the  little  bags  of 
grain  on  the  grain  table,  opening  some  and  letting  the 
seeds  trickle  through  her  fingers.  At  intervals  she  asked 
the  tutor  some  questions  sharply,  and  then  the  boys  came 
tumbling  in  and  into  the  store-room  to  get  their  bicycles. 
Mary  began  to  think  that  it  was  the  incongruity  of  the 
life  which  fascinated  her  most.  There  they  hung,  those 
bicycles,  in  that  tumble-down  crumbling  Calabrian  barn, 

158 


K.  S wins tead-Smith 

a  filthy  place,  crumbling  as  it  had  been  crumbling  since 
the  fifteenth  century,  most  likely,  and  now  on  the  walls 
hung  the  bicycles  like  a  Carnage's  show-room,  each  on  its 
proper  rest,  with  its  proper  equipment  lying  beneath  it. 
They  should  have  been  dirty  and  uncared  for  and  rusty, 
and  there  they  were,  glistening  and  oiled  and  perfect. 
There  was  a  great  tinkling  of  bells,  and  out  they  came  into 
the  refectory,  pedalling  round  and  round  the  table  like 
three  furies,  and  the  Marchesa  and  the  tutor  went  on 
sifting  little  bags  of  grain,  and  only  Mary  wanted  to 
laugh  because  everything  was  so  mad. 

"I  have  time  to  walk  with  you  all  to  the  drinking-pool 
and  back,"  said  the  Marchesa,  picking  up  a  fox  fur  and 
slinging  it  round  her  shoulders.  In  it  her  swinging,  stealthy 
walk  seemed  to  become  intensified,  as  if  she  had  festooned 
herself  with  her  prey. 

"I'm  being  fantastic,"  thought  Mary,  but  the  thought 
persisted. 

They  went  out  into  the  bright  sunlight. 

"You  know,  I'm  really  more  English  than  Italian," 
said  the  Marchesa  to  Mary,  as  they  strolled  along  the 
little  zigzag  path  through  the  olives.  "I  was  always  the 
favourite  of  the  head-mistress  when  I  was  at  school  at 
Brighton — she  used  to  ask  me  into  her  room  on  Sunday 
afternoons  to  pour  out  tea  for  her  guests." 

"Did  you  like  Brighton?"  asked  Mary.  The  sun,  the 
bitter-sweet  smell  of  the  olives,  and  the  rhythm  of  the 
sheep-bells  coming  on  little  gusts  of  scented  wind,  made 
her  drowsy  and  quiescent. 

The  tutor  walked  a  little  behind,  his  hands  behind  his 
back.  Now  and  again  he  would  stop  and  examine  the  tiny 
fruit  of  an  olive  tree.  Every  time  he  stopped,  Ivan,  the 
wolf-hound,  stopped  too.  The  young  man  never  seemed 
to  notice  the  dog,  but  the  animal  was  always  close  beside 
him. 

"Yes,  everything  English  always — I  feel  I  am  half 

159 


The  Marchesa 

English,"  went  on  the  Marchesa,  and  her  soft,  slow  voice 
seemed  full  of  the  sun.  "How  I  wish  I  could  have  married 
an  Englishman!" 

Brunone  and  a  boy  passed  them,  leading  the  white  horse 
loaded  with  faggots. 

"Signora  Marchesa,"  he  murmured,  bowing  low  and 
whipping  the  horse  off  the  pathway. 

"One  moment  we  are  in  the  twentieth  century  and  the 
next  in  the  Middle  Ages!"  thought  Mary. 

"He  was  a  dreadful  man,  my  husband,"  went  on  the 
Marchesa.  "Sometimes  he  would  bring  home  a  carozza 
with  nearly  naked  women  in  it.  Just  think  of  it — the 
humiliation!" 

"You  are  not  divorced?"  asked  Mary. 

"No.  One  must  think — the  children.  And  then  it  is 
very  difficult  in  Italy.  We  are  separated — he  lives  in  Paris, 
and  I  send  him  money  that  he  may  not  disgrace  our  name. 
I  care  nothing  for  myself  now — I  live  my  life  for  my  chil- 
dren." 

They  came  bicycling  back  along  the  track,  three  mad 
things,  beautiful  with  health. 

"Mamma,  Mamma,"  shrieked  Viti,  his  feet  on  the 
handle-bars.  "Look,  look!"  His  eyes  were  like  two 
blue  gentians. 

"They  are  splendid,  yes?"  said  the  Marchesa.  *'I 
should  like  them  to  go  to  Oxford — yes,  very  much.  Now 
everything  falls  on  me,  and  when  one  has  property, 
Miss  Graham,  there  is  always  so  much  to  do,  to  see  to 


They  climbed  to  the  old  stone  wall  which  bounded 
the  Marchesa's  estate.  There  was  always,  even  on  the 
hottest  day,  a  clean  strong  wind  blowing  here  from  the 
sea.  To  the  right  in  the  distance  lay  a  huddled  black  vil- 
lage, and  behind  lay  the  sea  of  olive  trees  and  the  old 
yellow  house  with  its  courtyard  slumbering  in  the  heat. 
They  turned  to  the  right,  keeping  to  the  top  of  the  hill, 

160 


K.  S  wins  lead-Smith 

and  then  slowly  descended.  Now  they  were  walking 
along  a  sinister  path  edged  with  giant  cactus.  One  great 
leaf  lay  broken  and  rotting  in  the  way.  There  was  some- 
thing terribly  wicked  about  it,  with  its  spikes  like  giant 
needles  and  its  yellow,  rotting,  spongy  pulp.  Overhead 
the  sky  grew  every  minute  more  intense.  Now  there  was 
no  trace  of  the  early  morning  purity;  it  looked  like  a  great 
solid  dome  of  purple-blue.  But  Mary,  who  knew  the  walk 
well,  knew  that  soon  the  cactus  walk  would  end  and  then 
would  come  the  deliciousness  of  the  surprise.  Always 
when  she  came  this  way  she  held  her  breath  and  got  the 
same  thrill  of  beauty,  for  suddenly  the  cactus  ended  and 
the  path  wandered  along  the  edge  of  the  orange  grove; 
and  now  all  was  young  again  like  the  setting  of  a  fairy 
tale,  for  only  fairies  could  dance  in  and  out  among  those 
gentians  and  the  little  wild  strawberry  plants  and  the 
yellow  flowers  that  had  no  name  and  the  wild  sweet 
clover  and  the  brilliant  fronds  of  fern.  Some  blue-and- 
white  butterflies  were  playing  here,  and  the  bees  were 
droning  in  the  clover. 

"How  bewildering  Calabria  is!"  said  Mary  suddenly, 
and  then  more  suddenly  came  the  thought — "and  how 
like  the  Marchesa!" 

It  was  nearly  11.30  when  they  got  back  to  the  house. 

"I  must  pack,"  said  the  Marchesa.  "Good  fellow," 
she  said  to  Ivan,  stroking  him,  and  then  she  told  Mary 
how  much  Ivan  loved  her — "like  my  servants,"  she  said, 
"they  always  adore  me.  Carlotta  will  be  heartbroken 
when  I  go." 

Suddenly  the  hand  that  was  stroking  him  stopped  its 
motion. 

"This  dog  has  not  been  groomed,"  she  said,  the  soft 
laziness  of  her  gone,  her  body  rigid. 

Brunone  was  in  the  corner  of  the  garage.  He  stam- 
mered a  few  words,  looking  up  at  her  blindly.  She  hit 
him  across  the  cheek  with  her  open  palm.  She  was  swept 

161 


The  Marchesa 

with  fury.  She  stood  with  her  arms  akimbo  on  her  waist 
and  her  voice,  out  of  control,  shrieked  and  whispered. 
The  children  huddled  behind  the  car,  and  Mary  stood 
white-faced  and  trembling  and  disgusted.  And  then  it 
was  all  over — her  arms  drooped,  her  black  staring  pupils 
burned  into  soft  blue-purple  once  more.  She  shook  her 
hair  out  of  her  eyes. 

"These  peasants!"  she  said  to  Mary,  smiling.  "Will 
you  come  and  help  me  pack,  Miss  Graham?" 

The  lovely  spoiled  gowns  were  pushed  into  the  two 
suitcases.  The  Marchesa  put  on  a  black  travelling  dress 
and  a  black  hat  with  a  veil — there  were  buttons  missing, 
and  Mary  lent  her  safety-pins  out  of  her  work-bag. 

"Such  a  nuisance  having  to  dress  well,"  said  the  Mar- 
chesa, "but  when  one  has  a  position "  Her  hair  was 

bundled  away  under  the  veil,  her  strong  white  neck  shone 
out  of  the  black. 

The  boys  crowded  round  her  in  the  car  to  say  good- 
bye. She  kissed  each  one,  tears  in  her  eyes.  The  two 
maids  came  out  to  kiss  her  hand,  and  then  she  shook 
hands  with  the  tutor.  Mary  stood  trying  to  feel  indif- 
ferent, trying  to  see  how  stupid  and  sentimental  it  all 
was. 

"Good-bye,  Miss  Graham,"  said  the  Marchesa. 

"We  shall  all  miss  you,"  said  Mary,  almost  before  she 
knew  she  had  said  it. 

"But  you  are  so  wonderful  with  the  children,"  the 
Marchesa's  voice  had  turned  honey-sweet.  "I  trust  them 
with  you  so  utterly " 

The  car  moved  away  and  she  was  gone.  The  house 
seemed  strangely  different.  Mary  kept  the  children  busy 
playing  and  reading,  and  in  the  late  afternoon  took  them 
for  another  walk,  for  she  felt  restless  and  unable  to  settle 
to  anything. 

Evening  came,  a  heavy  dusk,  as  if  the  sky  were  thick 
blue-black  powder;  and  with  it  came  a  strange  smell,  a 

162 


K.  Swinstead-Smith 

smell  that  came  welling  out  of  the  volcanic  earth  like 
some  strange  incense — a  slumberous,  pagan  smell. 

Dinner  was  an  hour  late,  and  directly  afterwards  the 
children  went  to  bed.  Viti  pranced  backwards  and  for- 
wards with  the  candle,  now  to  put  out  his  shoes  for  Ser- 
aphina  in  the  morning,  now  through  the  yellow  curtain 
into  the  bathroom  to  do  his  teeth.  In  the  sitting-room, 
through  the  open  door,  Mary  could  see  the  tutor  reading, 
his  book  near  his  eyes,  the  two  candles  in  the  forked  brass 
candlestick  flickering  about  in  the  draught  made  by  the 
boys  as  they  rushed  in  and  out. 

"Why  aren't  you  two  in  bed?"  he  shouted  at  them. 

"Going  now,  Professor,"  shouted  Giacomo  back  to 
him. 

Luigi  poked  his  nose  round  the  curtain  of  Viti's  room 
and  saw  Mary  sitting  on  the  bed. 

"Beautiful  Miss,"  he  said  again,  and  his  eyes  looked  at 
her  sensually  over  the  candle.  Mary,  with  annoyance, 
found  her  colour  rising. 

"Go  to  bed  at  once,  Luigi,"  she  said,  turning  to  open 
Viti's  bed.  "Little  boys  of  ten  should  be  asleep  at  this 


time." 


Back  came  Viti  from  the  bathroom,  chattering  to 
himself. 

"Look,  Miss,"  he  piped.  He  gave  one  bound  on  to  the 
bed,  shrieking  with  laughter.  He  pushed  his  feet  impa- 
tiently inside  the  bedclothes,  threw  out  the  pillow  on  to 
the  floor,  rolled  on  to  his  tummy,  turned  his  head  on  one 
side,  placed  one  grubby  little  hand  beneath  it.  His  black 
eyelashes  fluttered  and  fell.  Viti  was  asleep. 

Mary  went  out  softly  through  Luigi's  room.  He  was 
sitting  up  in  bed  reading.  He  gave  her  the  peculiarly 
sweet  sensual  smile  that  stirred  her.  She  went  to  her  room 
and  brought  him  back  two  chocolates.  After  she  had  given 
them  to  him  she  wished  she  had  not.  She  went  back  and 
got  two  more,  and  laid  them  by  Viti's  bed.  She  had  meant 

163 


The  Marchesa 

to  give  them  all  chocolates,  of  course.  Viti  would  find  his 
in  the  morning. 

Passing  through  the  sitting-room,  she  said  good  night 
to  the  Professor.  He  stood  up  politely,  and  then  settled 
down  again  to  his  Purgatorio,  holding  the  tiny  print  into 
the  candle-light. 

In  the  passage  Giacomo  was  tying  up  Ivan  for  the  night. 

"How  he  howls,  poor  fellow!"  he  said.  And  then  he 
added,  for  Mary's  enlightenment,  "They  always  do  at  this 
time  of  the  year,  you  know." 

Mary  liked  Giacomo.  He  looked  almost  like  an  Eng- 
lish boy,  with  the  candle-light  showing  up  his  fair  hair 
and  blue  eyes. 

"Do  you  require  anything,  Miss?"  he  asked.  In  his 
mother's  absence,  he  was  the  head  of  the  house. 

"Nothing,  thank  you,  Giacomo.    Good  night." 

Mary  opened  her  shutters.  There  was  Brunone  undress- 
ing in  the  dim  yellow  courtyard.  A  candle  was  burning  in 
his  hut,  but  he  was  outside  it,  letting  the  soft  coolness 
play  about  him.  With  slow,  lazy  movements  he  lowered 
his  blue  dungarees  and  pulled  the  red  jersey  over  his  head. 
His  shirt  looked  snow-white  in  the  darkness.  She  saw 
his  great  arm  go  over  his  head  and  worry  it  off  him,  bend- 
ing forward  from  the  waist.  He  drew  a  stool  out  into  the 
yard  and  sat  there  naked  to  the  waist.  Then  he  threw 
back  his  head  and  laughed,  just  for  the  full  joy  of  living. 
He  stretched  out  his  legs  and  felt  them  carefully.  In  the 
dim  shadow  Mary  could  see  him  scratching  his  back,  his 
thighs,  his  arms.  Then  suddenly  he  stretched  and  went 
into  the  hut. 

In  the  middle  of  the  night  Ivan  howled.  The  noise 
wakened  Mary,  and  almost  immediately  afterwards  she 
heard  a  car  pull  up  somewhere  on  the  road.  Then  every- 
thing was  very  still.  She  must  have  dozed  again,  and  this 
time  it  was  a  light  that  waked  her — a  little  aura  of  light, 
pale  chrome  yellow  with  a  pin-prick  of  wavering  fire  in 


K.  Swinstead-Smith 

the  centre.  Mary  suddenly  became  wide  awake.  The 
dressing-room  door  was  open,  and  in  the  doorway  stood 
a  man,  and  she  saw  that  it  was  her  candle  that  he  was 
holding. 

She  sat  up  in  bed. 

"Who  are  you?  What  do  you  want?"  she  said  in  a 
whisper. 

The  man's  face  was  white  and  long  and  inhuman  in  the 
candle-light.  He  spoke  softly  in  English. 

"I  am  the  Marchese.    I  have  come  to  see  my  son." 

"The  Marchese!  But  the  Marchesa  is  in  Naples.  Be- 
sides, why  have  you  come  like  this — like  a  thief?" 

"It  is  seven  years  since  I  have  seen  him,"  said  the  man. 
"I  am  on  my  way  to  Sicily,  and  I  thought — she  has 
altered  the  house  a  good  deal — this  used  to  be  the  hall,  I 
remember.  I  suppose  I  shouldn't  have  come  in  through 
the  front  door  at  all." 

"No,  we  don't  use  it.  But  please  go — the  children  are 
asleep;  and  besides — the  Marchesa " 

"How  many  children  are  there  now?"  asked  the  Mar- 
chese, placing  the  candle  on  the  table. 

"How  many?  What  do  you  mean?  There  are  three,  of 
course!" 

"So — there  is  another!  And  you  teach  them,  made- 
moiselle?" 

He  turned  his  head  slowly  as  padding  steps  came 
along  the  passage. 

"Signorina,"  came  Brunone's  hoarse  voice  on  the  other 

side  of  the  curtain,  "I  thought  I  saw  someone  come  in 

?? 

Mary  saw  his  brown  feet  under  the  short  curtain  illu- 
minated by  the  candle  he  carried. 

"Yes,  it  is  I,  the  Master,"  said  the  Marchese  impa- 
tiently. He  pulled  the  curtain  back,  and  from  the  light 
of  Brunone's  candle  Mary  saw  him  for  a  moment  clearly — 
a  haggard,  finely  cut  face  and  strange,  restless  eyes. 

165 


The  Marchesa 

"Signore  Marchese!"  Brunone  was  on  his  knees  kissing 
the  long  white  hand.  "Ah,  Signore  Marchese,  to  see  you 
again — to  touch  you!"  He  had  pulled  on  brown  earth- 
yellow  trousers  over  his  nightshirt;  his  eyes  were  bright 
with  sleep  and  very  blue. 

Softly  the  Marchese  took  his  candle  from  him  and  held 
it  close  to  his  brown  wild  face. 

"So  she  has  gone  at  last  to  the  very  soil,"  he  murmured. 

""Is  the  third  one  yours,  Brunone?"  he  asked. 

"//   bambino?      Sz,    Signore    Marchese — the   Marchesa 

did  me  the  honour "    He  cringed  as  if  for  a  blow,  but 

when  it  did  not  come  he  laughed. 

Softly  the  door  at  the  end  of  the  passage  opened.  It 
was  the  Professor.  His  face  looked  wan  and  pinched  in 
the  shadowy  light.  He  had  put  on  a  dressing-gown  and 
slippers  hastily,  and  the  cord  of  the  gown  trailed  behind 
him  like  a  flail.  He  came  towards  the  little  group,  holding 
his  candlestick  high  and  blinking  near-sightedly. 

"I  thought  I  heard — is  anything  the  matter,  Made- 
moiselle?" He  clutched  his  dressing-gown  round  him. 
His  white  young  face  looked  drawn,  as  if  he  did  not  sleep 
too  well  at  night. 

"Why,  it  is  the  Professor,"  said  the  Marchese.  "We 
are  quite  a  party!  And  how  is  your  son,  Professor?" 
he  added  ironically.  "He  was  three  years  old  when  I  last 
saw  him — took  after  his  mother,  I  remember." 

Mary  still  sat  up  in  bed,  too  bewildered  to  move  or 
speak.  Was  she  dreaming  that  these  three  men  were 
standing  unconcernedly  in  her  candle-lit  bedroom  in  the 
middle  of  the  night  parcelling  out  the  Marchesa's  children 
amongst  them?  It  was  incredible,  unbelievable! 

"Now  take  me  to  my  son,"  commanded  the  Marchese 
to  the  two  men,  picking  up  his  candle.  "  I  have  not  much 
time." 

They  passed  out,  and  Mary,  wrapping  her  kimono  round 
her,  followed  the  strange  little  procession. 

166 


K.  S wins tead-Smith 

Brunone  went  first  and  the  Marchese  followed,  a  worn, 
bent  figure,  holding  his  candle  high  and  walking  deliber- 
ately, as  if  he  were  performing  some  religious  rite.  It  was 
as  well  that  he  did  so,  for  the  Professor,  who  came  behind 
him,  had  forgotten  his.  He  peered  ahead  of  him,  running 
his  hand  over  his  unshaven  chin  and  unruly  hair,  his 
carpet  slippers,  which  were  too  big  for  him,  floundering 
along  the  floor. 

Brunone  held  his  candle  negligently.  He  was  smiling, 
perhaps  at  some  dream  he  had  had.  He  was  perfectly 
happy.  If  the  Signore  Marchese  had  not  been  there  he 
would  have  hummed  a  song.  Like  a  lithe  panther  he 
walked  soundlessly  and  magnificently,  a  mighty  frame 
stored  with  sun  and  wind,  untrampled  and  unconquered. 
As  they  passed  through  Viti's  room  he  paused  and  looked 
at  his  child.  He  had  many  others,  but  this  one,  with 
its  white  night-clothes,  its  aristocratic  little  head,  its  deli- 
cate round  baby  cheeks — oh,  he  was  proud  of  this  one! 
He  must  not  own  it  as  his — did  not  want  to  own  it.  If 
the  Signora  Marchesa  wished  one  night  to  come  to  his 
hut,  he  was  her  peasant;  and  besides,  their  bodies  had  been 
good  together — that  was  all  it  was.  He  took  one  of  Viti's 
hands  in  his  own  immense  brown  one.  It  lay  there,  small 
and  grubby.  He  bent  down  and  kissed  it  roughly.  "Fine 
little  Signore,"  he  muttered  and  joined  the  others. 

The  Professor  too  had  stopped,  and  stood  gazing  down 
upon  the  sleeping  Luigi.  "Mary,  Mother  of  God,"  Mary 
heard  him  murmur,  and  knew  him  to  be  saying  a  prayer. 
Perhaps,  she  thought  with  surprise,  he  often  prayed  for 
his  little  boy.  Even  in  sleep  Luigi  did  not  lose  his  mocking 
expression.  Mary  hoped  very  much  that  those  heavy- 
lidded  eyes  would  not  open  and  rest  upon  her  as  she  was. 
She  flushed  a  little.  "He's  only  ten,"  she  thought,  and 
shuddered.  She  saw  the  Professor  make  the  sign  of  the 
Cross  over  the  sleeping  boy.  A  tear  splashed  on  to  the 
coverlet.  For  a  moment  it  glittered  and  then  soaked  into 


The  Marchesa 

the  cloth.  Luigi  stirred  and  threw  out  an  arm.  Did  he 
subconsciously  feel  that  tear — a  tear,  all  that  could  ever 
pass  from  strange  father  to  stranger  son! 

But  the  Marchese  noticed  none  of  these  things.  He 
walked  stiffly  into  Giacomo's  room  and  closed  the  door. 
He  was  there  for  ten  minutes,  and  then  he  came  out 
quietly  and  put  out  his  hand  to  Mary. 

"I  thank  you,  Mademoiselle,"  he  said.  "I  am  very 
proud  of  him.  When  he  is  a  little  older  I  shall  have  him 
with  me.  Good-bye." 

Brunone  held  his  coat  for  him,  and  the  tutor  handed 
him  his  grey  Homburg  hat.  The  three  men  passed  slowly 
down  the  passage.  Brunone  led  the  way  again  with  the 
candle.  Mary  heard  a  door  opening,  a  faint  hum  of  voices, 
the  engine  of  a  car  on  the  road. 

She  went  back  to  her  own  room.  The  courtyard  lay  out- 
side, a  ghostly  thing  of  black  shapes,  and  beyond  nothing- 
ness— a  black  void.  A  single  star  hung  over  the  blackness 
that  was  the  sea.  The  muffled  sound  of  the  waves  was  as 
regular  as  a  heartbeat. 


168 


THE  HAND  OF  GOD 

by 
Jane  Culver 


JANE  CULVER  is  one  of  the  younger  American  writers, 
whose  novel,  So  Stood  I,  was  published  in  1934.  She  was 
born  in  Eau  Claire,  Wisconsin,  and  has,  with  her  husband, 
Thomas  Polsky,  gone  to  Weaverville,  N.  C.,  where  she  is 
completing  her  second  novel. 


THE  HAND  OF  GOD 

DARK  leaves  blew  by  the  window,  and  far  beyond,  in 
the  sky,  the  sunset  ran.  It  was  a  deep  time,  Nancy 
thought,  with  doves  and  vespers  in  it.  And  she  was 
all  alone  in  the  music  room.     She  began  to  play  a  quite 
grave  piece — "The  Funeral  March  for  a  Pet  Bird,"  it  was 
named.    And  she  was  not  nervous  about  the  octaves,  for 
Paula,  who  played  so  well,  was  not  here  to  listen.    She 
had  gone  to  meet  a  train  with  someone  on  it  whom  she 
loved. 

This  morning  Paula  had  come  from  New  York,  where 
she  lived  at  a  club  and  took  music  lessons  from  a  famous 
teacher;  she  would  be  at  home  all  the  summer.  And  she 
had  brought  a  rather  large  bottle  of  perfume  for  Nancy. 
"It's  very  heady  and  nice,  Fm  sure,"  Nancy's  grateful 
voice  had  said.  But  Paula  had  not  listened  much  while 
she  was  being  thanked;  she  was  practically  nineteen  and 
almost  beautiful.  She'd  kept  on  looking  thoughtful,  spill- 
ing evening  dre&ses  over  her  bed  for  ever  so  long.  For  she 
owned  perhaps  a  dozen  evening  dresses,  velvet  and  chiffon, 
all  different  colors.  She  had  chosen  them  herself,  in  a 
Httle  room,  while  a  salesgirl  bowed  round  her.  She  hadn't 
felt  exposed  and  looked  at  while  their  mother  pinched  the 
shoulder  straps,  wondering  and  worrying  about  her  daugh- 
ter's type.  And  Paula  had  worn  the  most  exciting  dress 
of  all,  and  some  man>  with  a  moustache  perhaps,  had 
lifted  his  hand  to  his  cheek  and  said  she  was  lovely  as  some 
sort  of  flower.  Then  they'd  gone  off  together,  in  a  taxi,  in 
a  soft  night  that  had  a  lemon  of  a  moon  at  the  top,  to 
applaud  a  little,  in  their  gloves,  at  a  concert. 

From  So  Stood  7,  by  Jane  Culver  (Houghton  Mifflin  Company,  Boston,  1934). 
Used  by  permission  of,  and  by  arrangement  with  Houghton  Mifflin  Company. 

171 


The  Hand  of  God 

Nancy  understood;  she  knew  the  bright  round  shape  of 
Paula's  life.  But  Paula  kept  things  very  private.  This 
afternoon  she'd  sat  by  her  window  giving  herself  a  slow 
manicure,  not  noticing  Nancy.  And  she  had  expected  that 
Paula  would  be  different  this  time.  For  Nancy  was.  She 
no  longer  wore  Peter  Thompsons,  and  rose  only  when 
much  older  women  came  into  the  room.  She  was  going  to 
a-  convent  in  the  autumn.  And  she  had  read — "Jane 
Eyre"  and  "David  Copperfield" — a  good  many  classics. 

Paula  had  not  changed.  She  still  patronized  people  and 
whispered  Dear  Gods.  That  was  one  thing  about  her  that 
wasn't  nice.  She  swore.  And  this  morning  she  hadn't 
gone  to  church.  She  was  simply  devitalized,  she  had  said — 
a  poor  excuse.  Paula  was  sure  to  know  in  her  intimate 
heart  that  that  was  a  sin — sadder,  more  serious,  than  any 
sin  of  Nancy's. 

Nancy  looked  at  the  sunset,  at  the  leaves,  and  let  a 
chord  sing  to  them.  She  felt  safe  and  good,  as  if  she  kept 
a  warm  secret  with  God,  and  He  was  remembering  the 
sacrifices  she  had  made  about  writing  paper  and  ice-cream 
in  order  that  she  might  light  candles  at  the  Virgin's  altar. 
As  if  He  were  remembering  how  she  thought  of  Him  in  the 
middle  of  dancing  school,  though  the  music  did  not  match 
Him  at  all  and  her  partner  talked  of  fishing  and  Indians 
and  things. 

She  dropped  her  hands  and  watched  the  shadows 
slanted  on  the  rug,  and  realized,  in  a  surprise,  that  she  was 
hungry. 

In  the  dim  kitchen,  with  its  smell  of  soap  and  summer, 
Effie  sat,  her  hands  folded  round  each  other  in  their  black 
silk  gloves.  She  was  going  to  church. 

"Good  evening,  Effie.  I  thought  I  ought  to  have  some- 
thing to  eat." 

"Surely  you'd  ought  to,"  Effie  said. 

Nancy  got  a  large  piece  of  cake  and  a  bottle  of  ginger  ale. 

172 


Jane  Culver 

"Take  care,"  warned  Effie.  "You'll  spill.  There'd 
ought  to  be  a  light  on." 

"Let's  not,  Effie.  It's  such  a  deep  time." 

"Well,  take  care."  The  voice  sighed  itself  away. 

The  ginger  ale  was  sweet  and  prickly.  Nancy  wanted  it 
to  last  a  long,  long  time.  She  was  very  comfortable,  sitting 
by  the  table,  drinking,  watching  the  pattern  of  her  voile 
dress  repeat  itself  over  her,  almost  to  her  ankles,  in  a  rhyme 
she  liked. 

"Hardly  anyone  looks  smart  in  Peter  Thompsons,  do 
they?" 

But  Effie  seemed  not  to  feel  like  talking. 

Outside,  the  tall  trees  were  standing  under  their  dark 
umbrellas.  It  was  very  still;  no  sound  was  caught  in  the 
silence.  And  then  a  little  wind  began  to  comb  the  grass, 
to  tip  the  dim  flowers  at  the  edge  of  the  lawn.  The  eve- 
ning, all  softly  lighted,  came  in  to  touch  Nancy  and  Effie 
together. 

"  Look,  Effie,  what  a  nice  night  it  is." 

"Because  it's  Sunday." 

And  they  were  silent  for  a  long  time. 

"Have  you  ever  had  a  burning  desire?"  Effie  whispered. 

"I'm  afraid  I  haven't."  For  she  wasn't  yet  old  enough; 
you  had  to  be  eighteen.  "I  expect  Paula  has,  though." 

"A  desire  to  see  God." 

"Oh  .  .  ." 

That  desire  had  happened  to  people  Nancy's  age. 
Saint  Agnes  had  been  martyred  when  she  was  fourteen; 
ashamed  soldiers  had  put  their  swords  away  and  waited 
for  her  death,  and  watched  her  pale,  brave  face,  her  eyes 
bright  with  wanting  to  see  God,  her  hands  of  the  same  size 
and  shape  as  Nancy's,  folded  on  her  breast  like  Nancy's. 

She  set  the  ginger  ale  down.  She  saw  the  trees  pointing 
to  the  timid  stars  that  lit  the  edge  of  heaven,  that  were 
the  beginning  of  the  beauty  and  music  and  God  beyond 
them.  And  the  warm  wind  paused.  She  knew. 


The  Hand  of  God 

"Yes,  I  have,"  she  said. 
"It's  sweet,"  sighed  Effie. 

"Oh,  I  know.  A  dreadful  heart-beating  goes  all  through 
you  and  you're  quite  nervous  in  such  a  pleasant  way." 
"Well" — Effie  rose — "I  got  to  get  going.    It's  quarter 


to." 


"Would  you  light  a  candle  for  me?" 
-"Surely.  I'd  be  glad  to,"  Effie  said. 
Nancy  went  up  to  her  room  to  get  the  money. 

On  her  dressing-table  was  a  small  statue  of  the  Virgin 
that  had  been  brought  from  Italy.  Long  ago,  before 
Nancy  had  begun  to  be  pious,  and  had  had  it  for  one  of 
her  dolls,  a  hand  had  been  broken  off  and  lost.  And  now, 
when  she  saw  the  severed  wrist  and  the  serene  face  above 
it,  she  felt  a  sharp,  sad  pain.  Then  she  lifted  the  statue. 
Underneath  was  hidden  quite  a  lot  of  money — a  dollar 
bill  and  several  dimes.  "I  have  enough  for  a  mass,  prac- 
tically." It  was  wonderful  to  think  about.  She  took  a  dime 
and  put  the  rest  of  the  money  back. 

She  stood  before  the  dressing-table  and  thought  of  nuns 
kneeling  in  yellow  light,  of  catacombs,  and  tall  candles 
burning,  of  the  lambs  and  doves  in  heaven.  And  of  the 
saints  with  lovely  names — Cyprian  and  Damon  and  Mag- 
dalen— whose  love  of  God  had  begun  to  bud  like  flowers 
when  they  lived  on  the  earth.  Now  they  were  dividing 
with  Him  the  harmony  that  lay  in  heaven,  free  of  the 
spiders  and  puddles  and  illnesses  that  waited  in  the  world 
for  people. 

Nancy  noticed  some  favors  she  had  kept  from  dancing 
school  on  the  table-top,  and  a  movie  actor's  photograph. 
She  put  these  in  a  drawer.  Then  she  crossed  herself  and 
said  a  Hail  Mary  because  it  was  quite  short  and  Effie  was 
waiting.  But  after  Effie  had  gone,  she  would  come  back 
and  worship.  Long  prayers  would  sing  through  her. 

She  went  down  the  back  stairs  because  she  had  often 


Jane  Culver 

felt  close  to  God  in  that  steep  darkness.  She  stopped  and 
prayed,  "Dear  God."  And  then  she  remembered  Paula's 
oath  and  pitied  her. 

Effie  leaned  by  the  kitchen  door. 

"Thank  you  very  much,"  Nancy  said. 

"Surely,"  said  Effie,  opening  the  door. 

Nancy  asked  her — it  seemed  a  fearfully  intimate  thing 
at  first,  and  not  quite  nice — to  pray  for  her. 

Slowly  Nancy  wandered  across  the  kitchen,  loving  the 
cozy  zest  of  worshipping.  She  opened  her  hand  so  that 
God  might  come  and  hold  it.  Then  she  went  to  the  sink 
and  washed  her  hands  and  dried  them  carefully  on  the 
roller  towel  in  order  that  He  might  find  them  pure.  She 
knew  that  He  was  here,  in  the  pantry,  beside  her,  and  had 
taken  her  hand.  She  strolled  with  Him  through  the  dining 
room,  into  the  hall.  It  was  the  best  thing  by  far  that  had 
ever  happened  to  her.  All  through  her  life,  when  she  was 
nineteen,  and  thirty-two,  and  an  old  woman,  it  would 
happen  all  over  again. 

And  then  Paula's  voice,  soft  and  intense  as  if  she  prayed, 
blew  out  to  her  from  the  music  room.  "But  my  love 
hasn't  turned  out  to  be  pseudo,  you  know,  even  if  yours 
has.  If  I'm  expected  to  live  out  my  life  thinking  up  fancy 
sublimations  and  having  good  stares  at  the  Rodin  col- 
lection, instead — " 

Nancy  drew  her  hands  over  her  ears  to  close  out  the 
words  she  knew  were  immodest,  a  mortal  sin  dark  as 
adultery,  because  they,  too,  were  forbidden  by  the  Sixth 
Commandment.  She  asked  God  to  remind  Paula  of  the 
Judgment  Day,  for  that  at  least  would  frighten  her  sin 
away  .  .  .  God  risen  from  His  throne,  His  hallowed  head 
bent,  His  fingers  pointing  to  the  damned,  His  great  voice 
telling  them  they  couldn't  live  in  heaven.  Hundreds  and 
hundreds  of  thieves  with  soiled,  twisted  faces,  and  gam- 
blers in  evening  clothes,  and  all  the  women  who  had  ever 
lived  and  had  not  been  modest.  The  stillness  after  God 


The  Hand  of  God 

had  spoken,  with  the  rhythm  of  their  scared  hearts  beating 
in  it.  And  then  their  loud  prayers  for  mercy  roaring  too 
late.  Down  the  slow,  reluctant  steps  into  hell,  where  the 
day  grew  thick  and  smoke  rose  into  it  ... 

Nancy  dropped  her  hands.  She  couldn't  seem  to  help 
listening  now,  though  she  didn't  want  to,  really. 

A  man's  voice,  sorry  and  tired,  said,  "But,  Paula — " 

She  was  not  polite  enough  to  let  him  finish:  "For  the 
love  of  God,  please  don't  tell  me  again  that  I  don't  under- 
stand, as  if  we  were  in  the  movies.  I  ought  to  be  bitter.  I 
am.  I'm  terribly  bitter.  Oh,  my  dear — " 

Nancy  felt  afraid  that  Paula  was  kissing  him.  And  she 
was,  standing  by  him  in  the  middle  of  the  music  room.  A 
blushing  went  over  Nancy.  She  began  to  hurry  through 
the  hall. 

They  must  have  heard  her,  for  they  turned  around. 

"Hello,"  said  Nancy. 

"Hello."  Paula  seemed  not  nearly  so  embarrassed  as 
Nancy  would  have  been. 

"Is  she  your  little  sister?"  asked  the  young  man. 

"Yes."  She  waved  her  hand  toward  Nancy.  "This  is 
Mr.  Morris." 

Paula  always  introduced  people  by  their  last  names, 
separating  you  from  the  world,  with  its  taxis  and  gar- 
denias, that  she  shared  with  them,  leaving  you  to  wonder 
if  they  were  David  or  George  or  even  Cyril,  until  at  last 
she  called  casually  the  real  name,  and  you  felt  a  huge 
relief. 

"Aren't  you  coming  in?"  The  young  man  smiled  at 
Nancy.  He  looked  kind  and  dark  and  uncomfortable  and 
would  be  quite  tall  if  he  stood  straight.  He  was  probably 
named  David. 

"Well,  I  don't  know."  She  said  it  like  a  question. 

"Please  come  in  for  a  minute  at  least."  He  seemed  so 
earnest,  inviting  her. 

"Don't  rush  off,"  Paula  said.    She  was  being  polite  on 


Jane  Culver 

purpose  for  Mr.  Morris;  she  didn't  want  her  to  come  in 
really. 

And  Nancy  walked  into  the  music  room,  where  Paula 
had  been  kissing  the  dark  man,  where  God  had  not  been 
thought  of  since  she  had  played  the  piano.  No  one  seemed 
able  to  think  of  anything  to  say. 

Paula  looked  in  magazines  that  were  full  of  pictures  of 
Asia.  She  pretended  to  be  absorbed  and  mystified,  and 
made  her  eyes  wide  to  see.  And  her  earrings  trembled  a 
little  on  their  silver  chains.  (For  she  always  wore  earrings, 
even  at  noon.  They  were  a  wretched  vanity  of  hers.) 

Mr.  Morris  stood  beside  Nancy.  "Won't  you  sit  down?" 
he  said.  She  chose  a  chair  by  the  fireplace  and  folded  her 
hands.  She  was  afraid  it  was  going  to  be  one  of  those 
nervous  times  when  she  would  have  to  clear  her  throat. 
And  she  could  not  seem  to  realize  God  just  now. 

At  last  Mr.  Morris  sat  on  a  footstool  and  said,  "She's 
rather  like  you,  Paula." 

"Do  you  think  so?"  Paula  answered,  not  looking  up. 
"Personally  I've  never  been  able  to  see  the  slightest 
resemblance." 

You  would  think  from  Paula's  voice  that  there  was 
something  the  matter  with  the  way  Nancy  looked.  In  the 
mirror  by  the  piano  she  saw  her  image,  and  there  was 
nothing  wrong  with  it  at  all.  Paula  was  unkind.  Nancy 
would  stay;  she'd  be  in  no  hurry,  for  Paula  of  course 
wanted  to  be  alone  with  Mr.  Morris,  though  he  didn't 
want  to  be  alone  with  her. 

After  a  while  he  asked  if  they  would  mind  his  smoking. 

"Heavens,  no,"  said  Paula  rather  crossly. 

He  lighted  a  cigar. 

"Are  you  going  to  smoke  a  cigar,  Donald?"  Paula  asked. 

He  was  called  Donald.  Nancy  liked  his  name;  it 
matched  him  very  well. 

He  put  his  cigar  out,  but  he  didn't  seem  to  mind.  He 
smiled  at  Nancy. 

177 


The  Hand  of  God 

"Rochester  smoked  cigars,"  she  said,  for  no  one  else 
said  anything.  And  she  remembered  him,  walking  on  the 
veranda  with  white  circles  of  smoke  curling  after  him. 
And  she  thought  how  Jane  Eyre  had  saved  his  life,  wak- 
ing him  in  his  flamy  bed.  "Are  you  going  to  stay  all 
night?" 

Donald  shook  his  head  and  smiled  again.  "I  must  be  in 
Chicago  in  the  morning." 

"Do  you  have  to  be?  I  thought  you  might  stay  quite  a 
long  time.  Didn't  you  bring  a  valise  or  something?"  She 
pointed  to  the  corner. 

"I  earn  my  living  with  that,"  he  said.  "It  isn't  a  valise. 
It's  what  I  play." 

They  had  begun  to  talk  at  last.  Donald  seemed  glad, 
and  she  was.  He  lighted  a  cigarette  and  looked  more 
comfortable. 

"Of  course  it  is,"  Nancy  laughed.  "What  a  faux  pas 
of  me.  It's  some  sort  of  a  bass — affair,  I  suppose." 

"It's  called  Charlotte,  the  virgin  'cello,"  said  Paula. 

Paula  shouldn't  say  virgin  in  that  open  way.  You 
prayed  to  virgins.  Nancy  thought  of  the  statue  on  her 
dressing-table,  and  kept  again  a  pity  for  the  broken  wrist. 
Soon  she  would  be  kneeling  before  it — after  she  had  pushed 
Paula's  impiety  far  behind  in  their  talk. 

"Why  don't  you  play  a  piece?"  Nancy  asked  Donald. 

"Shall  we?   Shall  we  play  together,  Paula?" 

Paula  sat  at  the  piano.  If  people  passed  on  the  terrace 
they'd  perhaps  have  a  feeling  like  poetry  when  they  saw 
her.  They'd  think  of  Spanish  countries  late  at  night,  and 
stars,  and  sighs,  and  so  on,  because  her  hair  shone  very 
black,  and  on  her  face  the  light  touched  carefully  as  if  she 
were  a  painting.  But  they  wouldn't  have  the  least  idea 
how  she  usually  behaved.  She  did  not  even  answer  Donald 
now;  instead  she  began  to  play  softly. 

"I  know  that,"  said  Nancy.  "That's  a  piece  of 
mine." 

178 


Jane  Culver 

And  she  could  not  help  being  pleased  because  Paula 
made  it  all  grown-up  and  astonishing. 

"It's  by  Debussy,"  Nancy  explained  to  Donald.  "It's 
called  'The  Girl  with  Flaxen  Hair.'  " 

"How  silly  you  are,  Paula."  Donald  rose  an8  went  over 
by  the  piano.  "Why  won't  you  believe  that  isn't  why? 
I  don't  even  know  any  blondes." 

"It's  a  rather  dumb  piece,"  Paula  said.  "It's  so  soppy." 

"I  think  I  ought  to  go,"  said  Nancy  quietly. 

Donald  turned  around  to  her.  "Don't  go."  He  seemed 
quite  anxious.  "We'll  play  something,  won't  we,  Paula." 

"Why  don't  you  and  Nancy  play?  She  has  a  very 
snappy  repertoire." 

That  was  terribly  rude  of  Paula.  She  was  cruel  and 
patronizing.  And  Donald  had  been  listening.  Nancy 
hated  her.  She  wanted  to  fly  at  her  and  bite  her  arm  until 
she  screamed  for  mercy.  But  Nancy  could  only  promise 
herself  never  to  forgive.  She  couldn't  even  answer.  In  the 
morning,  when  Paula  would  try  as  usual  to  make  peace, 
it  would  be  too  late.  She  would  stroll  yawning  into 
Nancy's  room,  and  sit  on  the  bed,  not  thinking  how  pale 
she  was,  nor  how  uninteresting  she  looked  in  water  waves. 
"Would  you  like  these  stockings,  Nancy?  They've  never 
been  worn."  And  she  would  display  the  price  tag  so  that 
Nancy  would  not  doubt  her.  (Mean  people  always  ex- 
pected you  to  be  suspicious  of  them.)  But  Nancy  would 
not  look.  (She  was  not  looking  at  Paula  now,  nor  listening 
to  her  music.)  "Nancy,  you  know  I  didn't  mean  anything 
last  night  about  your  repertoire.  I  wasn't  making  fun." 
"I  don't  want  your  old  stockings,  Paula.  Give  them  to  the 
poor."  .  .  .  Nancy  saw  a  quick  picture  of  the  poor,  who 
knelt  at  the  back  of  churches,  reading  prayer-books  dark 
with  germs.  They  were  the  people  who  always  spoiled  the 
holy  water  in  the  fonts  because  their  fingers  weren't 
clean  .  .  .  That  was  unchristian  of  Nancy,  and  so  was 
her  rage  at  Paula.  She  began  an  act  of  contrition  in  her 

179 


The  Hand  of  God 

mind:  "Oh,  my  God,  Fm  heart'ly  sorry  for  having 
offended—" 

But  Donald  interrupted.  "I'd  like  you  to  play.  I  know 
you  must  play  well,  Nancy." 

He  made'her  name  sound  very  nice,  as  if  he  liked  it. 

"  She  does  play  well.  She's  really  talented."  Paula  tried 
to  be  agreeable  at  last.  "Only  she  never  practices.  You 
know  how  they  are  at  that  age." 

She  had  spoiled  everything  again. 

Nancy  rose.  And  she  would  have  to  say  another  act  of 
contrition. 

"Are  you  going?"  Paula  said.  "Donald  and  I  are  going 
to  play." 

It  was  probably  a  sort  of  invitation.  Nancy  stayed, 
because  it  would  be  simple  to  find  God  to  music.  She 
looked  at  her  empty  hand  and  opened  it. 

Donald  sat  beside  Paula  and  tuned  his  'cello. 

"It's  the  nicest  time,  I  think,  just  before  the  music 
starts  and  everybody  is  getting  their  key.  You  always 
think  it's  going  to  be  so  beautiful  then,"  Nancy  said. 

Donald  said  he  thought  so,  too. 

They  were  going  to  play  Chopin  nocturnes  because  they 
did  not  need  notes  for  them,  although  Paula  believed  they 
were  unpardonably  sentimental. 

"I  like  them,  though,  don't  you,  Nancy?"  Donald  said. 

"Awfully  well." 

They  began  to  play,  and  Donald  looked  at  her  and  did 
not  smile.  He  had  dark,  deep  eyes  that  were  beautiful,  and 
she  would  remember  them,  because  his  thin  face  was  not 
at  all  good-looking  otherwise,  there  were  so  many  lines  in 
it,  and  she  would  like  to  think  of  him  as  being  handsome 
as  possible.  There  was  a  rim  of  light  around  his  head 
because  he  sat  near  a  lamp.  It  made  a  halo  for  him.  If  he 
had  a  beard  he  would  look  rather  like  God. 

God  became  quite  simple  to  realize.  There  were  the 
shapes  of  the  trees  that  His  eyes  saw,  too,  and  the  blue 

1 80 


Jane  Culvef 

color  of  the  night.  And  this  music,  pleading  as  a  dove's 
song,  He  knew  about. 

All  of  a  sudden  life  seemed  so  good  that  it  was  hard  to 
believe  in,  at  first,  as  a  marvelous  surprise.  Best  of  every- 
thing, of  course,  there  was  God.  And  then  there  was  the 
world.  People  like  Donald  lived  in  it.  And  there  was 
music  in  it  like  this,  as  if  harmony  reached  over  every- 
thing. It  was  very  easy,  not  disappointing,  even,  to  forgive 
Paula  now.  Her  anger,  too,  lay  underneath  the  music  and 
did  not  matter  .  .  .  Nancy  would  grow  older  and  be 
manicured  in  beauty  salons.  She  would  own  slippers 
trimmed  with  ostrich  feathers.  She  would  be  given  gar- 
denias by  young  men.  And  on  some  summer  night  she 
would  go  on  the  river  in  a  canoe,  and  watch  the  willow 
trees  leaning  over  the  banks,  and  become  engaged  to  a 
person  who  loved  her.  They  would  be  happy  ever  after- 
wards and  have  many  children.  There'd  be  years  and 
years  as  gay  as  light  to  live  in.  And  then  she  would  be 
lifted  into  heaven.  The  stars  would  lie  beneath  her  then, 
and  the  world  so  far  away  that  it  would  look  like  a  map  in 
a  geography — colored  countries  with  lines  for  rivers  run- 
ning through,  and  rough  stripes  of  mountains,  and  spots  of 
blue  for  oceans.  It  would  be  so  far  away  that  the  wonder 
in  it  would  not  be  real,  only  half-remembered,  like  a  picnic 
she  had  had  when  she  was  very  young,  with  nothing  left 
over  from  it  now,  though  she  knew  there  had  been  grapes 
and  sandwiches  and  wading  .  .  . 

It  seemed  a  sad  thing  not  to  remember  the  times  you 
had  liked,  to  waste  them  with  forgetting.  But  that  would 
not  happen  any  more  to  Nancy.  She  would  make  this 
scene  real  and  keep  it  all  her  life.  She  would  remember 
even  the  pictures  on  the  walls,  and  Paula's  earrings,  and  a 
theme  of  this  song.  And  Donald's  hands.  They  were 
narrow,  with  long,  strong  fingers  that  had  round  nails  at 
the  end.  And  they  were  very  clean/  She  watched  them  for 
a  long  time,  stretching  on  the  strings,  shaking  out  music. 

181 


The  Hand  of  God 

When  she  said  good  night,  she  would  take  his  hand  for  just 
a  moment  .  .  .  And  he  would  lock  his  'cello  in  its  case 
and  close  the  door  and  go  away.  In  Chicago  he  would 
laugh  with  people  who  had  never  heard  of  Nancy.  He 
would  keep  their  telephone  numbers  in  a  little  book  and 
call  them  any  time  he  liked.  He  might  never  think  of  this 
night  again  .  .  .  Very  soon  he  would  turn  out  to  be  only 
somebody  Paula  had  once  been  in  love  with.  Tomorrow 
and  the  day  after  she  would  play  sad  Scriabin  things  on  his 
account.  And  then  his  picture  would  be  put  in  a  bottom 
drawer  with  ice  skates  and  old  music,  and  Paula  would 
write  letters  to  two  or  three  men  and  one  of  them  would 
come  to  visit  her.  They  would  stay  in  the  music  room, 
at  night,  until  Paula  had  to  be  spoken  to. 

Their  three  lives,  Donald's  and  Paula's  and  Nancy's, 
would  all  be  different.  They  would  be  aware  of  Christmas 
and  summer  separately.  But  now  they  were  together  until 
the  music  stopped.  This  time  was  much  realer  than  yes- 
terday or  tomorrow.  Nancy  listened,  and  watched  Don- 
ald's hands,  and  thought  of  nothing  but  now,  because  it 
was  a  good  way  to  be  happy. 

But  after  a  little  while  Paula  said  they  had  had  enough, 
and  Donald  leaned  his  'cello  against  a  chair. 

"  'Cellos  sound  beautiful,  I  think,"  said  Nancy. 

"Another  of  the  'cello-minded,"  Paula  said. 

Nancy  rose.  She  would  go  before  anyone  began  to  be 
cross. 

Donald  rose,  too.  She  looked  at  his  hands.  They  seemed 
remote  and  private,  not  for  her. 

"I'm  glad  we  know  each  other,"  he  said,  and  smiled  at 
her. 

"So  am  I.  I'm  awfully  glad." 

Finally  she  reached  out  her  hand,  and  he  took  it.  It  had 
seemed  too  exciting  to  come  true,  but  it  was  happening. 
His  strong  fingers  reached  around  hers.  His  hand  was 
warm  and  real.  She  looked  at  his  face,  and  moved  a  little 

182 


Jane  Culver 

toward  him.  Her  heart  began  to  beat  faster,  to  make  her 
nervous  in  a  pleasant  way.  She  wished  he  would  say  her 
name  again. 

"We'll  see  each  other  sometime,  I  know,  Nancy." 

"Do  you  really  think  so?" 

"Of  course."  He  answered  as  if  he  were  sure. 

She  looked  down  at  their  hands.  "I  suppose  I  ought  to 
go,"  she  said. 

"It's  not  very  late." 

"I  know.  I  expect  I'll  read  in  bed  ...  I  wish  I  had  a 
good  French  novel." 

The  immodest  words  hung  shaking  in  the  air;  she  could 
never,  never  draw  them  back  again.  But  somehow  she  was 
not  sorry. 

The  Virgin's  statue  was  very  cold  when  Nancy  lifted  it. 
She  counted  the  money.  If  she  asked  someone  for  thirty 
cents  she  could  buy  some  earrings  at  Fleming's.  Tomorrow 
she'd  have  owned  them  for  a  whole  day,  and  Paula  would 
perhaps  have  asked  to  borrow  them.  For  years  Paula 
hadn't  asked  to  borrow  anything  of  hers,  but  when  she 
did,  she  wouldn't  be  able  to  patronize  Nancy  any  more. 
They  would  be  equals  .  .  . 

But  Nancy  must  think  of  God,  of  thorns  and  crucifixes, 
of  the  Pope's  robes  and  rings.  She  saw  them  as  if  they  were 
pictures  on  a  postal  card,  raggedly  printed,  not  nearly 
real  enough  to  believe  in.  She  thought  of  the  church, 
stained  with  shadows  now,  a  smell  of  old  air  over  every- 
thing. Little  red  lights  were  burning  in  the  gloom,  and  her 
candle  had  been  a  long  time  consumed.  There  was  nothing 
left  of  it  but  a  little  pool  of  wax. 

But  what  of  the  Poor  Souls,  who  longed  to  have  masses 
sung  for  them?  She  must  think  of  the  smoke,  the  poor 
choked  voices  crying.  Nancy  could  not  hear  them.  But 
downstairs  Donald's  voice  was  real. 

For  a  test  she  opened  her  hand  to  see  if  God  would  come 

183 


The  Hand  of  God 

to  hold  it.  She  waited  quite  a  little  while,  but  He  didn't 
come.  She  closed  it  and  caught  again  the  warmth  of 
Donald's  hand. 

But  what  about  the  Judgment  Day? 

It  was  as  far  away  as  God. 


184 


J  SHALL  DECLINE  MY  HEAD 

by 
Nancy  Evans 


NANCY  EVANS  (Mrs.  L.  H.  Titterton)  was  at  the  beginning 
of  what  promised  to  be  an  interesting  career  as  a  writer  of 
fiction  when  she  died  in  New  York  in  April  1936.  Her  child- 
hood  was  spent  in  Dayton,  Ohio. 


I   SHALL  DECLINE  MY  HEAD 

NOW  in  the  warm  afternoon  he  was  wrapped  in  a 
cocoon  of  peace  and  the  unfurled  tree  above  the 
bench  sheltered  him.  His  life  lay  like  a  rosary  in  his 
hands.  He  looked  about  him  and  he  was  eased  by  the 
thought  that  to  the  nurses  and  the  children  he  was  a  part 
of  the  place — no  more  than  the  gravel  paths  and  the  close- 
cut  grass. 

When  he  awoke  that  morning  he  had  wondered  what 
had  happened.  Then  he  remembered  the  tree.  It  had 
rained  all  night,  falling  through  his  sleep,  and  yesterday 
afternoon  the  buds  were  ready  and  warm  to  open.  He 
rang  the  bell  for  Anne  and  before  she  could  bring  his  glass 
of  water  he  told  her  to  pull  the  curtains.  The  sun  rayed 
across  the  carpet  and  he  thought  that  it  was  like  the 
flashing  of  a  sword.  There  could  be  no  doubt!  He  raised 
himself,  pressing  his  hands  against  the  mattress,  and  while 
Anne  gathered  his  clothes  he  felt  his  heart  flutter  as  if  it 
were  blown  by  the  wind.  He  made  her  hurry  and  he  was 
not  troubled  by  her  gentleness  with  his  frailty.  The  day 
expanded  before  him. 

He  always  went  out  on  fine  days.  He  would  be  impatient 
with  the  ritual  of  breakfast  and  when  Anne  warned  him 
not  to  tire  himself  he  would  nod  obediently  like  a  child 
angelic  to  be  gone.  And  released  he  would  walk  happily, 
resting  from  time  to  time  on  his  smooth  stick.  When  it 
was  windy  he  bent  double  to  anchor  himself  to  the  pave- 
ment. The  walk  was  very  important  ^and  if  denied  it  he 
felt  aimless  as  he  had  in  the  old  days  when  he  stayed  away 
from  the  office. 

Reprinted  from  Story,  August  1935,  by  permission  of  the  editors  of  Story 
and  of  Mr.  Lewis  H.  Titterton. 

187 


I  Shall  Decline  My  Head 

He  looked  across  at  the  house  with  the  two  boxed  privets 
standing  like  sentinels  at  the  door.  But  the  outside  was 
less  powerful.  Sitting  there  under  the  chestnut  tree  with 
the  luminous  flowers  above  him  he  felt  aloof  from  his  way 
of  remembering  and  trying  to  fathom  the  past.  It  was 
like  being  a  stranger  to  himself.  When  he  was  inside  it  was 
not  so  easy.  The  rooms  were  unchanged,  they  were  just 
as  they  had  been  when  Eugenia  was  alive,  and  they  were 
like  a  spell  laid  upon  him.  Anne  kept  the  house  as  she 
thought  he  wanted  it  to  be  and  she  did  not  know  that 
the  red  and  green  portieres,  the  Tiffany  glass  vases  in  the 
damask-walled  drawing-room,  and  the  painted  fans  made 
a  monument  to  failure. 

Stephen  accepted  the  house  and  it  did  not  occur  to  him 
to  ask  that  it  be  different.  Indeed  he  liked  it  as  it  was  for 
it  was  his  own,  bought  with  his  money,  and  the  loneliness 
was  his  too,  rightly  his,  as  it  had  been  before.  But  when- 
ever he  closed  the  leaf-frosted  doors  and  stood  above  the 
wide  steps  he  felt  as  if  he  were  winged.  The  street  was  a 
curtain  dropped  on  his  life  and  if  he  remembered,  it  was  as 
if  he  were  puzzling  over  the  meaning  of  some  story  remote 
and  dim. 

The  square  was  an  old  friend.  They  shared  a  secret,  the 
secret  of  change,  and  each  though  overshadowed  was 
unshaken.  Stephen  respected  the  park  and  he  felt  dignified 
by  the  iron  fence  and  the  hedge  closing  out  the  mushroom 
buildings  newsprung  and  arrogant  like  towers  of  Babel. 
Not  even  the  predatory  cleverness  of  real  estate  brokers 
had  destroyed  it.  Children  came  through  the  gates  shep- 
herded by  nursemaids  who  kept  their  keys  in  careful 
pockets,  but  there  were  few  others.  The  apartment  houses 
cast  shadows,  there  was  the  sound  of  motor  cars,  and  most 
of  the  old  houses  were  gone,  but  the  park  remained.  It 
was  a  confusion  of  time. 

Sometimes  he  thought  that  it  was  an  island  lost  in  a 
strange  sea.  That  was  when  he  took  the  walk  through  the 

188 


Nancy  Evans 

warehouse  lined  streets,  the  streets  noisy  with  trucks  and 
men.  He  had  been  there  today  wandering,  a  pale  anach- 
ronism, smelling  it  and  taking  it  as  he  went  along  and  fore- 
seeing what  would  be  his  when  he  crossed  the  swift  street 
and  came  to  his  corner.  The  park  was  there  and  when  he 
saw  it  with  the  tree  flowering  it  was  a  revelation. 

The  sun  went  through  him  like  an  X-ray.  His  hands 
were  transparent,  like  the  fins  of  a  fish  seen  through 
water,  and  the  veins  made  a  design.  The  fingers  were 
curved  and  knobbed  and  he  thought  the  nails  looked 
brittle  like  yellowed  ivory.  His  stick  lay  beside  him  on  the 
bench  and  his  legs  were  crossed  with  his  hands  fallen  upon 
them.  They  moved  slightly  with  a  life  of  their  own  and  he 
wondered  at  them  holding  them  in  the  air  to  examine. 
"The  hands  of  an  old  man — my  hands — "  he  said. 

A  boy  bent  over  a  wagon  in  the  middle  of  the  path, 
stooping  there  with  his  feet  apart.  He  looked  around  and 
saw  Stephen. 

"I  fixed  it  once  and  now  it  won't  go!"  he  said. 

Stephen  leaned  forward,  "Bring  it  here,"  he  said.  "Per- 
haps I  can  help  you."  The  boy  stared  at  him  as  if  amazed 
that  he  could  speak.  Another  boy  came  along  the  path. 

"Look,  Peter,  my  wagon's  broken!"  he  called.  Then 
the  two  of  them  turned  the  wagon  upside  down  disregard- 
ing Stephen.  It  looked  odd  like  that,  Stephen  thought, 
helpless  like  a  beetle  on  its  back.  He  smiled  watching 
them  and  he  saw  the  way  Peter's  hair  made  a  point  in  the 
little  hollow  at  the  back  of  his  neck.  He  felt  as  if  he  were  a 
part  of  them,  limb  of  their  limb,  and  feeling  that  he 
drowsed  in  the  sun.  After  a  while  the  sun  changed  and  he 
lowered  his  head  away  from  the  glare. 

Stephen  saw  himself  as  a  young  man — Stephen  Prentiss, 
large-grown  and  straight.  He  saw  himself  fresh  from  the 
war  and  sorry  it  was  ended  when  he  met  her  in  Virginia. 
(If  he  had  gone  home  he  might  never  have  known  her! 

189 


I  Shall  Decline  My  Head 

She  might  have  lived,  lived  and  died  without  him,  and  he 
would  never  have  missed  her!)  But  he  could  not  compre- 
hend his  life  lived  without  Eugenia.  "How  was  I  to  know 
she  would  never  forgive  me?"  he  wondered.  "Would  I 
have  been  different  if  I  had  been  born  in  Kentucky  in- 
stead of  Ohio?" 

What  was  the  relation  between  a  man  and  the  place 
where  he  was  born?  Well,  he  had  been  born  above  the 
-  Mason  and  Dixon  Line  and  that  was  enough  for  Rich- 
mond. He  was  one  of  the  enemy.  He  told  them  how  his 
father  came  to  settle  on  that  piece  of  unsurveyed  backland 
spread  out  on  the  folded  hills,  and  he  told  them  how  he 
had  worked  and  how  he  bought  the  land  rightly  from  the 
government  at  public  auction.  But  they  didn't  listen;  it 
was  enough  for  them  to  know  that  he,  Stephen,  was  born 
there. 

He  remembered  the  time  his  father  took  him  back  to  the 
place.  He  was  ten  or  maybe  twelve  and  they  walked  a  long 
distance  up  a  dry  creek-bed  careful  to  step  on  the  steady 
rocks.  Crows  made  flying  shadows  and  they  passed  two 
or  three  poor  clearings.  Once  they  saw  a  girl  in  a  blue  dress 
sitting  on  the  porch  of  a  cabin.  Her  bare  feet  hung  down 
to  the  ground  and  behind  her  a  man  sagged  in  the  door- 
way. Neither  of  them  answered  his  father's  "Howdy!" 
and  suddenly  uneasy  Stephen  took  his  father's  hand.  He 
felt  that  he  and  not  the  girl,  was  sitting  there  silent. 
After  that  he  marveled  at  his  father  who  had  taken  them 
away  from  the  back-country  to  the  elm-grown  town  on 
the  river. 

When  they  got  there  they  found  the  house  like  a  derelict 
with  plaster  dropped  from  between  the  logs  and  the  roof 
fallen.  His  father  took  him  around  to  the  side  and  showed 
him  where  the  staircase  to  the  loft  had  been  and  he  told 
Stephen  how  he  used  to  run  down  it  and  across  the  snow- 
covered  yard  to  the  warm  kitchen.  He  carrried  his  clothes 
in  a  bundle  and  his  feet  would  sting  from  the  snow. 

190 


Nancy  Evans 

They  pushed  open  the  springhouse  door  hanging  by  one 
hinge  and  they  saw  a  blacksnake  stretched  on  the  stones 
by  the  water.  Sunlight  fell  through  open  places  in  the  roof 
and  made  spots  on  its  back.  After  that  they  went  to  the 
pine-ringed  place  on  the  hill  and  Stephen  stepped  around 
the  mounds.  He  thought  the  earth  would  give  way  and  he 
would  fall  through.  He  read  the  stones  but  he  did  not  feel 
that  they  belonged  to  him.  "To  the  memory  of  Hannah 
Prentiss,  beloved  wife  of  John  Prentiss,"  he  read  his 
mother's  stone  and  he  thought  that  it  leaned  over  as  if  it 
were  tired.  And  he  thought  of  his  two  brothers -as  two 
lambs  like  the  carving  on  the  stone.  When  he  looked  at  his 
father  he  knew  that  he  was  forgotten. 

Richmond  taught  Stephen  Prentiss  that  he  was  a 
Yankee.  It  reminded  him  that  the  first  station  of  the 
Underground  Railway  was  in  his  town  and  it  made  him 
responsible  for  that  too.  After  a  while  he  knew  what 
hatred  was  like.  Living  with  Eugenia's  people  he  was  like  a 
spy  and  he  asked  himself  over  and  over  why  they  had 
ever  married.  He  felt  himself  hiding  like  a  dog  skulking 
under  chairs  and  he  could  not  remember  why  he  was  there. 
At  first  their  life  was  a  dream,  but  slowly,  like  poison,  her 
mother's  passion  worked  in  her  until  she  almost  believed 
that  Stephen  was  the  murderer  of  her  Confederate 
brother.  Between  them  they  robbed  him  of  his  manhood. 
And  yet  out  of  some  knowledge  he  understood  their  hate 
and  understanding  that  he  knew  more  than  he  had  ever 
thought  to  learn. 

When  finally  he  told  her  that  he  must  go  she  went  with 
him.  But  it  was  too  late  then.  His  father  welcomed  them 
to  the  brick  house  standing  in  the  middle  of  placid  lawns 
and  Stephen  was  proud.  "She  will  see  that  it  is  good,"  he 
thought.  But  Eugenia  said,  "It's  as  fine  a  prison  as  any!" 

"  She  was  like  a  queen,"  he  thought.  Anne  had  little  of 
that  long-limbed  grace.  Stephen  wondered  whether  his 
son  would  have  been  like  Eugenia.  After  Anne's  birth 

191 


I  Shall  Decline  My  Head 

Eugenia  said  the  doctor  had  warned  her,  but  Stephen 
never  forgot  that  he  wanted  a  son.  And  in  New  York, 
where  he  made  his  own  way,  he  had  missed  his  son  the 
most  of  all.  Stephen  Prentiss  saw  himself  as  a  part  of  a 
great  land,  strong  and  forward,  leading  to  a  new  world 
and  he  wanted  his  son  to  carry  his  name.  John,  he  would 
call  him  for  his  father,  John  Prentiss.  How  else  could  he 
live?  People  said  that  Anne  was  like  a  son  to  him.  Cer- 
tainly she  was  an  able  woman — "one  of  the  best  publishers 
in  New  York" — and  she  was  good  too,  a  good  woman,  but 
it  was  not  the  same.  Stephen  could  not  imagine  his  son 
like  Anne. 

Anne  was  kind.  She  always  wanted  him  at  the  head  of 
the  table,  she  said  she  was  used  to  it  that  way,  and  he  knew 
that  she  was  proud  of  his  rare  age.  She  was  proud  of  him 
and  proud  of  her  way  of  making  him  a  part,  and  for  her 
sake  Stephen  was  glad  of  his  unspotted  clothes  like  the 
clothes  of  youth.  He  sometimes  sat  with  a  mirror  and 
combed  his  beard  until  it  was  silk-smooth  and,  even 
though  his  fingers  trembled,  he  knew  how  to  eat  without 
spilling  his  food. 

Stephen's  Latin  had  given  Anne  a  new  sort  of  respect 
for  him;  it  was  the  sort  of  respect  she  would  have  for  a 
precocious  child.  One  day  Stephen  found  some  of  the 
Latin  books  put  aside  in  youth  and  he  felt  that  they  were 
an  unfinished  task  before  him.  He  opened  one  of  them  but 
the  words  were  hieroglyphics.  He  turned  to  the  title  page 
and  it  was  like  an  echo — 

P.  Virgiln  Maronis 

Bucolica,  Georgica 

ET  A  EN  El  S 

The  title  page  was  dated  1857.  Stephen  thought  back 
to  what  he  would  have  been  then.  He  read  the  preface  by 
one  Francis  Bowen  and  he  fingered  through  the  supple- 
ment which  had  been  arranged  so  that  "the  young  student 

192 


Nancy  Evans 

may  be  able  to  read  Virgil  as  a  poet,  and  find  pleasure  in 
the  task,  instead  of  poring  over  the  work  of  a  crabbed  and 
difficult  exercise  in  Latin."  That  pleased  Stephen  and  he 
ordered  a  Latin  dictionary  from  the  bookshop  near  the 
square.  After  that  he  worked  tediously  back  and  forth 
between  the  text  and  the  supplement,  the  supplement 
and  the  dictionary,  until  finally  the  first  page  was  his 
and  the  lines  moved  through  his  mind  like  a  drum 
beating. 

He  often  said  the  lines  aloud  partly  to  make  his  mem- 
ory certain  and  partly  for  the  exhilaration  they  made  him 
feel.  One  evening  before  dinner  he  sat  in  the  library  saying 
them  over  and  hearing  their  strange  sound.  He  was  facing 
the  door  and  suddenly,  silhouetted  there  by  the  light  from 
the  square,  he  saw  Anne  staring  at  him  and  he  knew  that 
she  was  afraid. 

"Father!"  she  came  forward.    "Are  you  all  right?" 
"Yes,  Anne,  I'm  saying  my  Latin,  that's  all." 
She  flashed  on  the  lights  and  with  his  fingers  between 
the  pages  of  the  book  Stephen  spoke  to  her — 

Musa,  mihi  causas  memora,  quo  numine  laeso, 
Quidve  dolens,  regina  deum  tot  volvere  casus 
Insignem  pietate  virum,  tot  adire  labores 
Impulerit:  tantaem  animis  coelestibus  irae! 

After  that  Anne  would  tell  her  guests — "He  has  taught 
himself,  you  know.  And  at  his  age!  He'll  be  ninety 
soon — "  Then  they  would  look  at  him  with  wonder. 

Stephen  raised  his  head  and  saw  the  tree.  It  was  like 
seeing  infinity.  He  felt  buoyant,  as  if  the  mistakes  of  his 
life  belonged  to  someone  else  and  he  had  no  thought,  only 
a  sense  of  deep  delight,  the  same  feeling  he  had  known  as  a 
child  when  he  lay  in  bed  watching  the  lighted  steamboats 
go  down  the  river.  "O  world!"  he  said.  He  sat  like  that 
long  after  the  children  and  the  nursemaids  had  gone 
across  the  streets  and  into  the  new  buildings. 

193 


I  Shall  Decline  My  Head 

II 

They  were  talking  and  Stephen  forgot  that  he  was  a 
curiosity  fragile  and  ancient  as  a  mummy.  He  strained  his 
hearing  to  the  words  that  glimmered  through  his  deafness. 
He  could  not  always  hear,  and  then  he  would  pretend 
understanding,  smiling  when  they  smiled  and  looking 
grave  when  they  were  grave. 

"We're  in  the  midst  of  a  revolution — a  revolution 
against  democracy/'  the  red-faced  author  said.  His 
starched  shirt  bowed  out  above  his  waistcoat.  "Look  at 
the  farmers  out  in  Iowa  and  think  of  what's  happening 
down  in  Washington ! " 

"Yes,  we've  seen  about  enough  of  what  uncontrolled 
individualism  can  do  for  us.  It's  nothing  but  exploita- 
tion." 

"Jefferson  never  meant  the  people  to  have  power,"  the 
young  woman  replied. 

"We  must  have  men  who  are  strong  enough  to  be  ruth- 
less," the  lawyer  said.  "Democracy  is  impossible  without 
a  dictator — that's  the  anomaly!  Someone  has  to  force 
capital  to  share  with  labor  or  we're  lost — a  sinking  ship." 

"It  can  never  be  done.  Labor  can  never  consume  its 
produce  like  a  serpent  eating  its  own  tail,"  the  author  said. 

Stephen  leaned  forward,  feeling  the  carved  arms  of  the 
chair  beneath  his  hands.  His  face  flushed  and  he  saw 
Anne  watching  him,  cautioning  him.  She  tried  to  hold 
him  back  but  he  looked  away.  "My  father  had  a  fine  busi- 
nes^ trading  tobacco  up  and  down  the  Ohio  river,"  he  said. 
"I  was  a  boy  during  the  first  years  of  the  war,  and  then 
before  it  was  over  I  went  too.  When  I  came  back  he  took 
me  into  the  business  and  we  doubled  the  profits."  They 
were  listening  to  him.  "Everything  was  fine.  I  went  to 
Cincinnati  every  two  or  three  weeks — I  traveled  sixty 
miles  on  a  river  boat — to  sell  to  the  wholesalers."  Stephen 
remembered  what  it  was  like  walking  down  the  brick- 

194 


Nancy  Evans 

paved  path  to  the  wharf.  "I  was  very  certain,  and  then 
suddenly  it  was  all  different."  He  stopped,  out  of  breath. 

"What  happened?"  the  young  woman  asked.  She  sat 
at  his  right  and  when  he  turned  toward  her  Stephen  looked 
full  into  her  eyes.  He  felt  confused.  What  had  happened? 
He  felt  as  if  he  had  forgotten  his  name.  Then  he  knew 
again  and  the  past  broke  over  him  like  a  wave. 

"Banks  failed — Jay  Cooke  failed — prices  dropped  and 
we  couldn't  sell  to  the  eastern  markets.  That  was  in  '73. 
After  that  people  were  out  of  work  and  there  was  trouble 
all  over  the  country.  Have  you  ever  heard  of  the  Molly 
Maguires?  Workers  organized  and  in  '77  the  country  was 
paralyzed  by  the  great  railway  strike.  Nobody  knew  what 
would  happen  next,  but  finally  it  was  settled  and  the 
forces  of  industry  were  in  control."  He  paused.  "The 
trouble  was  that  the  war  was  like  a  fever;  it  brought 
prosperity  and  then  confusion  and  after  that  a  panic."  He 
knew  there  was  more  to  say  but  he  couldn't  think  what 
it  was, 

"It's  different  now,"  the  lawyer  said.  "It's  not  the 
same — the  whole  world  is  upset." 

Stephen  thought  of  the  time  before  Cleveland  was 
elected.  How  he  had  despaired!  He  leaned  forward  and 
they  were  quiet  before  his  quavering  voice,  "'Is  there 
anything  whereof  it  may  be  said,  See,  this  is  new/"  He 
felt  uplifted  as  if  he  were  a  prophet.  He  glanced  trium- 
phant about  the  table  to  see  their  acceptance  of  this 
wisdom.  "Don't  you  see?"  he  was  insistent.  "The  same 
things  happen  over  and  over — in  every  age — they  hap- 
pened in  Egypt  and  Rome,  they  happened  when  I  was  a 
young  man  and  now  you  have  it  all  over  again — the  same 
old  problems  of  bread  and  men." 

The  lawyer  wiped  his  mouth,  pursing  his  lips.  He  held 
his  waterglass  in  the  ain  "Rome  fell,  sir,  maybe  that's  our 
course  too!"  He  smiled,  making  Stephen  know  that  he 
was  too  old  to  have  judgment  as  a  man.  He  was  a  child 

195 


I  Shall  Decline  My  Head 

in  the  company  of  experience.    Made  irrelevant,  he  sat 
silent. 

While  they  talked  Stephen  saw  a  procession  of  people 
following  each  other  and  the  generations  of  men  were  like  a 
frieze  across  his  mind;  he  saw  them  making  the  same  mis- 
takes and  he  felt  himself  impotent,  caught  along  in  the 
parade,  moving  with  that  flow  of  people.  "Does  it  always 
seem  different  and  is  it  always  the  same?"  he  wondered. 
"Does  it  have  to  be  done  with  blood  blindly  and  are  there 
forces  over  which  man  has  no  more  control  than  over  his 
own  birth?" 

He  watched  them,  animated  about  the  table,  and  he 
saw  them  powerless  in  the  midst  of  life.  They  had  no 
power  to  save  themselves  and  they  were  afraid;  like  Lot's 
wife  they  could  only  turn  and  stare. 

"I  read  somewhere  that  their  Chancellor  said,  'War  is 
to  man  as  motherhood  is  to  woman!'" 

"They're  mad!  All  Europe  is  mad!"  Anne  said. 

"It's  more  complicated  than  we  know;  it's  rooted  deep 
in  the  dissatisfaction  of  years.  What  do  we  know  about 
Poland?  It's  a  racial  problem  for  which  we  have  no 
parallel — we  might  have  had  if  the  Indians  hadn't  been 
quietly  annihilated." 

"The  thing  we  won't  face  is  that  the  powers  of  the 
world  are  bankrupt.  All  except  Russia.  At  one  time  or 
another  all  of  them  have  refused  their  obligations  and  now 
they're  against  the  wall — "  the  lawyer  said. 

Stephen  thought  that  their  knowledge  of  their  war  had 
taught  them  to  see  the  future  as  if  it  were  already  written 
in  a  book.  How  could  they  disregard  those  signs  like 
clouds  in  the  sky? 

"An  international  government  is  the  only  solution." 

"Impossible!"  Anne  exclaimed. 

Stephen  could  not  go  on  with  the  problem.  It  was  a 
labyrinth  and  he  had  no  thread  to  lead  him  to  the  light. 
He  sought  his  memory  of  the  tree;  it  was  as  if  he  needed  a 

196 


Nancy  Evans 

landmark  and  he  tried  to  sense  it  flowering  above  him. 
For  an  instant  it  was  there  and  he  put  back  his  head  and 
gazed  at  the  white-yellow  flowers  glowing  in  clusters  like 
lanterns. 

After  that  he  did  not  try  to  follow.  They  talked  and 
he  had  no  wish  to  hear  what  they  were  saying.  Once  or 
twice  the  young  woman  spoke  to  him,  doling  a  suitable 
remark  separately,  and  each  tiqae  he  felt  humbled  by  her 
kindness. 

Finally  the  women  went  away  leaving  their  chairs  dis- 
ordered, and  sitting  there  alone  with  the  men  Stephen  was 
at  peace.  One  of  them,  an  Englishman,  drew  his  chair  close. 

Stephen  motioned  to  a  box  on  the  table.  "The  vices  of 
an  old  man  are  limited,"  he  said,  "but  I  still  have  my 
cigar  after  dinner.  I  pride  myself  on  their  quality — per- 
haps you  will  have  one  with  me?"  He  relished  the  man's 
surprise  at  his  enthusiasm. 

They  talked  of  London  and  Stephen  told  him  what  it 
was  like  in  1887  at  the  time  of  the  Queen's  Jubilee.  "My 
wife  and  I  were  there,"  he  said.  "We  stood  on  the  balcony 
of  our  room  and  watched  the  parade  pass  along  the  street. 
They  raised  the  hotel  rates,  I  remember  that,  and  I  remem- 
ber I  wanted  to  go  on  to  Paris  when  they  told  me.  But  my 
wife  wanted  to  stay!" 

They  laughed  together  in  the  way  of  men.  "  It  was  a  fine 
sight  to  see,"  Stephen  said. 

Ill 

They  were  gone!  During  the  long  waste  of  the  evening 
Stephen  had  sat  upright  wondering  whether  Anne  would 
notice  if  he  were  to  leave  them.  He  thought  how  he  would 
go,  quietly  without  making  a  stir.  There  was  something 
he  wanted  to  hear  on  the  radio — what  was  it?  He  recalled 
checking  the  newspaper  before  dinner.  He  saw  the  library 
solitary  and  comforting  and  he  longed  to  be  in  his  leather 
chair.  The  newspaper  was  there  on  the  table — What  was 

197 


I  Shall  Decline  My  Head 

it  he  wanted  to  hear?  Stephen  frowned  in  his  effort  to 
remember  and  he  saw  Anne  looking  at  him,  solicitous. 
Yes,  it  was  music,  songs  from  The  Mikado — "a  wandering 
minstrel  7,  a  thing  of  shreds  and  patches" — that  was  it! 
Did  he  dare? 

But  he  sat  on  among  them  and  at  the  end  he  got  up  and 
stood  at  the  door  with  Anne. 

Now  they  were  gone.  §tephen  lay  in  bed  and  his  eyes 
looked  with  satisfaction  at  the  door  closed  between  him 
and  the  hall.  The  light  by  the  bed  shone  down  and  spot- 
lighted his  hands  moving  across  the  rough-surfaced  quilt. 
Lying  there  in  his  bed,  the  bed  of  years,  he  felt  secure  in  his 
being.  The  tall  mahogany  posts  recognized  him  and 
acknowledged  his  identity.  An  elevated  sounded  and 
faded  into  the  silence  and  Stephen  thought  that  it  was 
like  a  rocket  spouting  in  a  dark  sky.  He  turned  off  the 
light  and  lay  in  the  night. 

"Eugenia,"  he  said,  "I  saw  a  boy  today — a  boy  with 
your  eyes  and  your  fair  hair — " 

His  heart  jerked  and  he  sat  startled  in  his  sleep.  What 
was  wrong?  He  strained  to  hear  but  the  house  was  quiet. 
Stephen  waited  taut  like  one  about  to  run  a  race.  Then, 
distinctly,  there  was  the  sound  of  sobbing.  It  came  from 
the  next  room. 

"John!"  he  called.    "John!   What's  the  matter?" 

The  sobs  stopped.  Stephen  called  Eugenia  but  she  lay 
without  moving.  The  sobs  started  again,  louder  now,  and 
he  felt  himself  jump  out  of  bed  and  run  to  the  nursery. 
The  door  was  open  and  inside  a  nightlamp  made  a  blot  of 
light  in  the  corner. 

The  room  was  silent  except  for  the  sobbing.  Stephen 
saw  himself  dart  to  the  bed  and  he  leaned  over  it  looking 
at  John.  He  lay  uncovered  and  his  flannel  pajamas  were 
twisted  about  his  body.  His  hair  was  damp  and  his  eyes 
were  black.  When  he  saw  Stephen  he  stopped  with  his 
mouth  open. 

198 


Nancy  Evans 

" Are  you  ill,  John?" 

The  sobs  began  once  again.  "No  ...  I  ...  had  .  .  . 
a  dream  .  .  ." 

Stephen  was  relieved  and  with  that  he  began  to  tremble. 
"  What  did  you  dream,  son?"  he  asked. 

"It  was  about  you — "  John  hesitated,  looking  up 
at  him  and  then  he  turned  over  onto  his  stomach.  "I 
dreamed  you  were  an  old  man — I  can't  remember  the 
rest,"  he  said. 

Stephen  smiled,  "Well,  you  see  I'm  not,  and  I  guess  I 
shan't  be  either  for  a  long  time.  Why,  you'll  have  a  boy 
of  your  own  before  then!" 

"Will  I  be  old  enough  to  run  a  train?" 

"Yes,  you'll  be  old  enough  to  run  a  train  and  to  sail  a 
boat  too." 

John  lay  quiet,  amazed  with  the  future. 

"Now  John,  how  about  some  sleep?"  Stephen  said. 

"I  think  I  could  go  to  sleep  if  I  had  something  to  eat — 
I'm  hungry,"  John  replied. 

Stephen  knew  he  should  be  firm.  Eugenia  would  not 
allow  it,  but  dreams  were  disturbing — "All  right,"  he  said, 
"if  you're  really  hungry  I'll  get  a  glass  of  milk  and  some 
crackers.  Cover  up  now  while  I  go  down  to  the  kitchen." 
John  smiled  and  pulled  the  blanket  up  to  his  chin. 

Stephen  stumbled  over  the  stuffed  spaniel  lying  stiff  on 
the  floor  by  the  banisters.  He  shrank  from  it.  What 
pleasure  could  Eugenia  get  from  such  an  effigy  of  her  dead 
pet?  Stephen  was  surprised  at  himself  seen  angry  in  the 
mirror  at  the  head  of  the  stairs  and  he  stepped  softly, 
anxious  not  to  wake  Eugenia. 

It  was  dark  in  the  lower  hall;  it  was  as  if  he  were  in  a 
strange  house.  He  felt  along  the  wall  for  the  button  and 
when  the  light  came  it  was  like  a  blow. 
.  A  pile  of  letters  lay  on  the  bench  below  the  hatrack. 
The  envelopes  were  small — Eugenia's.  What  did  she  say 
in  those  long  letters  to  her  family  and  the  Richmond  peo- 

199 


I  Shall  Decline  My  Head 

pie?  "The  only  joy  she  ever  feels  is  over  the  arrival  of  her 
mail,"  he  thought. 

The  kitchen  was  a  cave  and  he  couldn't  find  the  light 
cord.  He  felt  like  a  thief.  After  a  while  he  began  to  see 
by  the  light  from  the  street  and  he  found  the  cracker-tin 
in  the  pantry.  He  put  it  on  the  table  and  went  to  the 
icebox  for  the  milk.  "I  must  remember  to  tell  him  to 
drink  it  slowly,"  he  thought. 

He  searched  for  John's  mug,  the  china  one  with  the  cat 
for  a  handle,  and  when  he  had  almost  decided  to  do  with- 
out it,  there  it  was  in  the  cupboard  behind  a  pile  of  plates. 
It  was  like  finding  a  treasure.  He  put  it  on  a  tray  with  the 
milk  and  some  crackers. 

Stephen  started  upstairs  and  then  he  stopped.  "I  guess 
I  might  as  well  have  some  too,"  he  thought.  He  got  him- 
self a  glass  and  somehow  that  made  the  thing  more  regular, 
less  a  conspiracy  with  John.  They  were  both  hungry,  that 
was  all. 

He  walked  up  the  stairs  to  the  first  floor  and  when  he 
reached  the  hall  he  heard  voices  in  the  dining-room.  The 
red  velvet  curtains  were  drawn  but  he  could  just  see  them 
sitting  about  the  table.  Anne  and  her  people  and  himself 
there  at  the  end.  They  were  talking  and  laughing  while  he 
looked  on.  Stephen  felt  elated  like  a  truant  and  he  tiptoed 
down  the  hall  and  past  the  drawing-room  so  they  should 
not  hear  him.  "They  think  they  know,"  he  thought.  "Let 
them  talk — mine  not  theirs — my  John!" 

He  went  up  the  second  flight  of  stairs,  past  the  library 
and  on  up  to  the  floor  above.  The  clock  chimed  twice  as 
he  opened  the  nursery  door.  He  was  surprised  to  find  the 
room  dark.  Had  Eugenia  been  there? 

He  pressed  the  button  and  put  the  tray  on  the  table 
near  the  door.  "Here  we  are,  my  man!"  he  said,  "I'm 
going  to  have  some  with  you."  He  opened  the  bottle.  "  It 
was  quite  an  adventure  getting  it — they  were  there,  and  you 
should  have  seen  the  hatrack  stare  at  me  as  I  passed!" 

200 


Nancy  Evans 

John  said  nothing.  Stephen  took  the  mug  in  his 
hand  and  turned  towards  the  bed.  "Look!"  he  said,  "I 
managed  to  find  your  mug — and  what  a  search  that 
was!" 

But  the  bed  was  not  there!  Yes,  it  was  there  but  not 
where  it  had  been  before — it  stood  empty  against  the  wall, 
the  covers  smooth. 

"John!" 

Stephen  put  the  mug  on  a  chair  and  he  felt  himself 
stand  like  stone.  Then  he  began  to  fumble  about  the  room. 
He  felt  the  curtains,  he  moved  the  chairs  and  he  opened 
the  wardrobe.  All  of  the  time  he  cried,  "John!  John! 
Where  are  you,  John  ? " 

"I  must  wake  Eugenia,  she  will  know,"  he  thought  and 
he  stood  gazing  about  the  room.  It  ignored  him,  uncaring 
of  his  words  as  if  he  had  no  reason  to  be  there.  He  called 
Eugenia  with  all  his  voice,  louder  and  louder,  until  he 
sensed  nothing  but  his  own  sound. 

But  she  did  not  come  and  Stephen  saw  himself  rooted 
there  waiting.  Finally  he  moved  and  he  got  to  their  room 
and  looked  at  the  bed.  After  that  he  sat  on  a  low  chair  and 
bent  over  resting  his  elbows  on  his  knees.  He  rocked 
slowly  with  his  head  in  his  hands,  "John,  my  John," 
"John,  John,  my  son,"  he  repeated  like  a  chant.  When  he 
got  up  he  braced  himself  against  the  wall  and  moved  along 
to  the  nursery  door. 

He  stood  there  and  he  saw  one  glass  of  milk  and  a  plate 
of  crackers  on  a  table  by  the  hall  door  and  there  was 
another  glass  on  a  chair  in  the  middle  of  the  room.  The 
milk  had  spilled  on  the  seat  and  it  made  a  wet  ring. 
Stephen  thought  of  the  china  mug  and  the  glass  blurred 
through  his  tears. 

He  stood  like  one  in  a  dream.  The  faded  animal  parade 
marched  around  the  walls  of  Anne's  nursery  as  it  had  for 
fifty  years  and  Stephen  saw  that  the  windowshades  were 
pricked  with  points  of  light.  "It's  daybreak — I  must  try 

201 


I  Shall  Decline  My  Head 

to  sleep,"  he  murmured.    "Anne  would  be  worried  if  she 
found  me." 

Stephen  got  back  to  the  bed  and  gripping  the  post  he 
lifted  himself.  Stretched  there  with  closed  eyes  it  was  as 
if  he  were  dead.  He  thought  of  the  glasses  and  the  tray 
in  the  nursery,  "If  Anne  should  find  them!  Before  her — I 
must  get  them  in  the  morning — " 


202 


REJUVENATION  THROUGH  JOY 

by 
Langston  Hughes 


LANGSTON  HUGHES  was  born  in  1902,  in  Joplin,  Mis- 
souri. He  is  the  author  of  The  Ways  of  White  Folks,  a 
volume  of  short  stories  from  which  Rejuvenation  through 
Joy  is  taken;  The  Weary  Blues  (poems);  Not  Without 
Laughter,  a  novel;  Mulatto,  a  successful  play  of  the  1935— 
1936  theatrical  season  in  New  York,  etc.  He  has  trans- 
lated short  stories  and  poems  by  Cuban,  Mexican,  ana 
Haitian  writers,  and  is  a  contributor  to  New  Masses, 
Esquire,  Scribner's  Magazine,  The  New  Republic,  etc. 


REJUVENATION  THROUGH  JOY 

MR.  EUGENE  LESCHE  in  a  morning  coat,  hand- 
some beyond  words,  stood  on  the  platform  of 
the  main  ballroom  of  the  big  hotel  facing  Cen- 
tral Park  at  59th  Street,  New  York.  He  stood  there 
speaking  in  a  deep  smooth  voice,  with  a  slight  drawl,  to  a 
thousand  well  dressed  women  and  some  two  or  three 
hundred  men  who  packed  the  place.  His  subject  was 
"Motion  and  Joy,"  the  last  of  his  series  of  six  Friday 
morning  lectures,  each  of  which  had  to  do  with  something 
and  Joy. 

As  the  hour  of  his  last  lecture  approached,  expensive 
chauffeured  motors  turned  off  Fifth  Avenue,  circled 
around  from  the  Park,  drew  up  at  the  59th  Street  en- 
trance, discharged  women.  In  the  elevators  leading  to 
the  level  of  the  hotel  ballroom,  delicate  foreign  perfumes 
on  the  breasts  of  befurred  ladies  scented  the  bronze 
cars. 

"I've  just  heard  of  it  this  week.  Everybody's  talking 
about  him.  Did  you  hear  him  before?" 

"My  dear,  I  shall  have  heard  all  six.  ...  He  sent  me 
an  announcement." 

"Oh,  why  didn't  I  ...   ?" 

"He's  marvellous!" 

"I  simply  can't  tell  you  ..." 

The  great  Lesche  speaking. 

As  he  spoke,  a  thousand  pairs  of  feminine  eyes  gazed 
as  one.  The  men  gazed,  too.  Hundreds  of  ears  heard, 
entranced:  Relax  and  be  happy.  Let  Lesche  tell  you 

From  The  Ways  of  White  Folks,  by  Langston  Hughes.  Copyright  1934  by 
Alfred  A.  Knopf,  Inc.  Reprinted  by  permission  of  and  special  arrangement 
with  Alfred  A.  Knopf,  Inc.,  authorized  publishers. 

20S 


Rejuvenation  through  Joy 

how  to  live.  Lesche  knows.  Look  at  Lesche  in  a  morning 
coat,  strong  and  handsome,  right  here  before  you.  Listen! 

At  $2.50  a  seat  (How  little  for  his  message!)  they 
listened. 

"J°7>"  said  the  great  Lesche,  "what  is  life  without 
joy?  .  .  .  And  how  can  we  find  joy?  Not  through  sitting 
still  with  our  world  of  troubles  on  our  minds;  not  through 
taking  thought — too  often  only  another  phrase  for  brood- 
ing; not  by  the  sedentary  study  of  books  or  pamphlets, 
of  philosophies  and  creeds,  of  ancient  lore;  not  through 
listening  to  me  lecture  or  listening  to  any  other  person 
lecture,"  this  was  the  last  talk  of  his  series,  "but  only 
through  motion,  through  joyous  motion;  through  life  in 
motion!  Lift  up  your  arms  to  the  sun,"  said  Lesche.  "Lift 
them  up  now!  Right  now,"  appealing  to  his  audience. 
"Up,  up,  up!" 

A  thousand  pairs  of  female  arms,  and  some  few  hun- 
dred men's,  were  lifted  up  with  great  rustle  and  move- 
ment, then  and  there,  toward  the  sun.  They  were  really 
lifted  up  toward  Lesche,  because  nobody  knew  quite 
where  the  sun  was  in  the  crowded  ballroom — besides 
all  eyes  were  on  Lesche. 

"Splendid,"  the  big  black-haired  young  man  on  the 
platform  said,  "beautiful  and  splendid!  That's  what 
life  is,  a  movement  up!"  He  paused.  "But  not  always 
up.  The  trees  point  toward  the  sun,  but  they  also  sway 
in  the  wind,  joyous  in  the  wind.  .  .  .  Keep  your  hands 
skyward,"  said  Lesche,  "sway!  Everybody  sway!  To 
the  left,  to  the  right,  like  trees  in  the  wind,  sway!"  And 
the  huge  audience  began,  at  Lesche's  command,  to  sway. 
"Feet  on  the  floor,"  said  Lesche,  "sway!" 

He  stood,  swaying  too. 

"Now,"  said  Lesche  suddenly,  "stop!  Try  to  move 
your  hips!  .  .  .  Ah,  you  cannot!  Seated  as  you  are  in 
chairs,  you  cannot!  The  life-center,  the  balance-point, 
cannot  move  in  a  chair.  That  is  one  of  the  great  crimes 

206 


Langston  Hughes 

of  modern  life,  one  of  the  murders  of  ourselves,  we  sit 
too  much  in  chairs.  We  need  to  stand  up — no,  not  now, 
my  friends."  Some  were  already  standing.  "Not  just 
when  you  are  listening  to  me.  I  am  speaking  now  of  a 
way  of  life.  We  need  to  live  up,  point  ourselves  at  the 
sun,  sway  in  the  wind  of  our  rhythms,  walk  to  an  inner 
and  outer  music,  put  our  balance-points  in  motion.  (Do 
you  not  remember  my  talk  on  c Music  and  Joy'?)  Primi- 
tive man  never  sits  in  chairs.  Look  at  the  Indians!  Look 
at  the  Negroes!  They  know  how  to  move  from  the  feet 
up,  from  the  head  down.  Their  centers  live.  They  walk, 
they  stand,  they  dance  to  their  drum  beats,  their  earth 
rhythms.  They  squat,  they  kneel,  they  lie — but  they 
never,  in  their  natural  states,  never  sit  in  chairs.  They 
do  not  mood  and  brood.  No!  They  live  through  motion, 
through  movement,  through  music,  through  joy!  (Re- 
member my  lecture,  ' Negroes  and  Joy'?)  Ladies,  and 
gentlemen,  I  offer  you  today — rejuvenation  through  joy." 

Lesche  bowed  and  bowed  as  he  left  the  platform.  With 
the  greatest  of  grace  he  returned  to  bow  again  to  applause 
that  was  thunderous.  To  a  ballroom  that  was  full  of 
well-dressed  women  and  cultured  men,  he  bowed  and 
bowed.  Black-haired  and  handsome  beyond  words,  he 
bowed.  The  people  were  loath  to  let  him  go. 

Lesche  had  learned  to  bow  that  way  in  the  circus.  He 
used  to  drive  the  roan  horses  in  the  Great  Roman  Chariot 
Races — but  nobody  in  the  big  ballroom  of  the  hotel 
knew  that.  The  women  thought  surely  (to  judge  from 
their  acclaim)  that  he  had  come  fullblown  right  out  of 
heaven  to  bring  them  joy. 

Lesche  knew  what  they  thought,  too,  for  within  a 
month  after  the  closing  of  his  series  of  Friday  Morning 
Lectures,  they  all  received,  at  their  town  addresses,  most 
beautifully  written  personal  notes  announcing  the  open- 
ing in  Westchester  of  his  Colony  of  Joy  for  the  rebuilding 
of  the  mind,  the  body,  and  the  soul. 

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Unfortunately,  we  did  not  hear  Lesche's  lecture  on 
"Negroes  and  Joy"  (the  third  in  the  series)  but  he  said, 
in  substance,  that  Negroes  were  the  happiest  people  on 
earth.  He  said  that  they  alone  really  knew  the  secret  of 
rhythms  and  of  movements.  How  futile,  he  said,  to  study 
Delsarte  in  this  age!  Go  instead,  he  said,  to  Cab  Galloway, 
Brick  Top's,  and  Bill  Robinson!  Move  to  music,  he  said, 
to -the  gaily  primitive  rhythms  of  the  first  man.  Be 
Adam  again,  be  Eve.  Be  not  afraid  of  life,  which  is  a 
garden.  Be  all  this  not  by  turning  back  time,  but  merely 
by  living  to  the  true  rhythm  of  our  own  age,  to  music  as 
modern  as  today,  yet  old  as  life,  music  that  the  primitive 
Negroes  brought  with  their  drums  from  Africa  to 
America — that  music,  my  friends,  known  to  the  vulgar 
as  jazz,  but  which  is  so  much  more  than  jazz  that  we  know 
not  how  to  appreciate  it;  that  music  which  is  the  Joy  of 
Life. 

His  letter  explained  that  these  rhythms  would  play  a 
great  part  in  leading  those — who  would  come — along 
the  path  to  joy.  And  at  Lesche's  initial  Westchester 
colony,  the  leader  of  the  music  would  be  none  other  than 
the  famous  Happy  Lane  (a  primitif  de  luxe),  direct  from 
the  Moon  Club  in  Harlem,  with  the  finest  Negro  band 
in  America.  To  be  both  smart  and  modern  in  approaching 
the  body  and  soul,  was  Lesche's  aim.  And  to  bring 
gaiety  to  a  lot  of  people  who  had  known  nothing  more 
joyous  than  Gurdjieff  was  his  avowed  intention — for 
those  who  could  pay  for  it. 

For  Lesche's  proposed  path  to  life  was  not  any  less 
costly  than  that  of  the  now  famous  master's  at  Fontaine- 
bleau.  Indeed,  it  was  even  slightly  more  expensive.  A 
great  many  ladies  (and  gentlemen,  too)  who  received 
Lesche's  beautifully  written  letter  gasped  when  they 
learned  the  size  of  the  initial  check  they  would  have  to 
draw  in  order  to  enter,  as  a  resident  member,  his  Colony 
of  Joy. 

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Langston  Hughes 

Some  gasped  and  did  not  pay  (because  they  could  not), 
and  so  their  lives  went  on  without  Joy.  Others  gasped, 
and  paid.  And  several  (enough  to  insure  entirely  Lesche's 
first  season)  paid  without  even  gasping.  These  last  were 
mostly  old  residents  of  Park  Avenue  or  the  better  section 
of  Germantown,  ladies  who  had  already  tried  everything 
looking  toward  happiness — now  they  wanted  to  try  Joy, 
especially  since  it  involved  so  new  and  novel  a  course  as 
Lesche  proposed — including  the  gaiety  of  Harlem  Negroes, 
of  which  most  of  them  knew  nothing  except  through  the 
rather  remote  chatter  of  the  younger  set  who  had  prob- 
ably been  to  the  Cotton  Club. 

So  Lesche  opened  up  his  house  on  an  old  estate  in 
Westchester  with  a  mansion  and  several  cottages  thereon 
that  the  crash  let  him  lease  for  a  little  or  nothing.  (Or 
rather,  Sol,  his  manager,  did  the  leasing.)  Instead  of 
chairs,  they  bought  African  stools,  low,  narrow,  and 
backless. 

"I  got  the  best  decorator  in  town,  too,"  said  Sol,  "to 
do  it  over  primitive — modernistic — on  a  percentage  of 
the  profits,  if  there  are  any/' 

"It's  got  to  be  comfortable,"  said  Lesche,  "so  people 
can  relax  after  they  get  through  enjoying  themselves." 

"It'll  be,"  said  Sol. 

"We're  admitting  nobody  west  of  Fifth  Avenue,"  said 
Lesche. 

"No  Broadwayites,"  said  Sol. 

"Certainly  not,"  said  Lesche.  "Only  people  with  souls 
to  save — and  enough  Harlemites  to  save  'em." 

"Ha!  Ha!"  said  Sol. 

All  the  attendants  were  French — maids,  butlers,  and 
pages.  Lesche's  two  assistants  were  a  healthy  and  hard 
young  woman,  to  whom  he  had  once  been  married,  a 
Hollywood  Swede  with  Jean  Harlow  hair;  and  a  young 
Yale  man  who  hadn't  graduated,  but  who  read  Ronald 

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Rejuvenation  through  Joy 

Firbank  seriously,  adored  Louis  Armstrong,  worshipped 
Dwight  Fisk,  and  had  written  Lesche's  five  hundred 
personal  letters  in  a  seven-lively-arts  Gilbert  Seldes  style. 

Sol,  of  course,  handled  the  money,  with  a  staff  of  secre- 
taries, bookkeepers,  and  managers.  And  Happy  Lane's 
African  band,  two  tap  dancers,  and  a  real  blues  singer 
were  contracted  to  spread  joy,  and  act  as  the  primordial 
pulse  beat  of  the  house.  In  other  words,  they  were  to 
furnish  the  primitive. 

Within  a  month  after  the  Colony  opened  in  mid- 
January,  its  resident  guests  numbered  thirty-five.  Appli- 
cations were  legion.  The  demand  for  places  was  very 
great.  The  price  went  up. 

"It's  unbelievable  how  many  people  with  money  are 
unhappy,"  said  Sol. 

"It's  unbelievable  how  they  need  what  we  got," 
drawled  Lesche. 

The  press  agents  wrote  marvellous  stories  about  Lesche; 
how  he  had  long  been  in  his  youth  at  Del  Monte  a  student 
of  the  occult,  how  he  had  turned  from  that  to  the  primi- 
tive and,  through  Africa,  had  discovered  the  curative 
values  of  Negro  jazz. 

The  truth  was  quite  otherwise. 

Lesche  had  first  worked  in  a  circus.  He  rode  a  Roman 
chariot  in  the  finale.  All  the  way  across  the  U.  S.  A.  he 
rode  twice  daily,  from  Indianapolis  where  he  got  the  job 
to  Los  Angeles  where  he  quit,  because  nobody  knew  him 
there,  and  he  liked  the  swimming  at  Santa  Monica — 
and  because  he  soon  found  a  softer  job  posing  for  the 
members  of  a  modernistic  art  colony  who  were  modeling 
and  painting  away  under  a  most  expensive  teacher  at  a 
nearby  resort,  saving  their  souls  through  art. 

Lesche  ate  oranges  and  posed  and  swam  all  that  sum- 
mer and  met  a  lot  of  nice,  rich,  and  slightly  faded  women. 
New  kind  of  people  for  him.  Cultured  people.  He  met, 
among  others,  Mrs.  Oscar  Willis  of  New  Haven,  one  of 

210 


Langston  Hughes 

the  members  of  this  colony  of  art  expression.  Her  husband 
owned  a  railroad.  She  was  very  unhappy.  She  was  lonely 
in  her  soul — and  her  pictures  expressed  that  loneliness. 
She  invited  Lesche  to  tea  at  her  bungalow  near  the  beach. 

Lesche  taught  her  to  swim.  After  that  she  was  less 
unhappy.  She  began  a  new  study  in  the  painting  class. 
She  painted  a  circle  and  called  it  her  impression  of  Lesche. 
It  was  hard  to  get  it  just  right,  so  she  asked  him  to  do 
some  extra  posing  for  her  in  the  late  afternoons.  And  she 
paid  him  very  well. 

But  summers  end.  Seasonal  art  classes  too,  and 
Mrs.  Willis  went  back  East. 

Lesche  worked  in  the  movies  as  an  extra.  He  played 
football  for  football  pictures.  Played  gigolos  for  society 
films.  Played  a  sailor,  a  cave  man,  a  cop.  He  studied  tap 
dancing.  He  did  pretty  well  as  far  as  earning  money 
went,  had  lots  of  time  for  cocktails,  parties,  and  books. 
Met  lots  of  women. 

He  liked  to  read.  He'd  been  a  bright  boy  in  high  school 
back  home  in  South  Bend.  And  now  at  teas  out  Wilshire 
way  he  learned  what  one  ought  to  read,  and  what  one 
ought  to  have  read.  He  spent  money  on  books.  Women 
spent  money  on  him.  He  swam  enough  to  keep  a  good 
body.  Drank  enough  to  be  a  good  fellow,  and  acted  well 
enough  to  have  a  job  at  the  studios  occasionally.  He  got 
married  twice,  but  the  other  women  were  jealous,  so  di- 
vorces followed. 

Then  his  friend  Sol  Blum  had  an  idea.  Sol  ran  a  gym 
for  the  Hollywood  elite.  He  had  a  newly  opened  swim- 
ming pool  that  wasn't  doing  so  well.  He  asked  Lesche 
if  he  would  take  charge  of  the  lessons. 

"Don't  hurt  yourself  working,  you  know.  Just  swim 
around  a  little  and  show  'em  that  it  looks  easy.  And  be 
nice  to  the  women,"  Sol  said. 

The  swimming  courses  boomed.  The  fees  went  up. 
Sol  and  Lesche  made  money.  (Lesche  got  a  percentage 

211 


Rejuvenation  through  Joy 

cut.)  He  swam  more  and  drank  less.  His  body  was  swell, 
even  if  licker  and  women,  parties  and  studio  lights  had 
made  his  face  a  little  hard. 

"But  he's  so  damn  nice/'  the  women  would  say — 
who  took  swimming  lessons  for  no  good  reason  but  to  be 
held  up  by  the  black-haired  Lesche. 

Then  one  summer  Lesche  and  Sol  closed  the  gym  and 
went  to  Paris.  They  drank  an  awful  lot  of  licker  at  Harry's 
bar.  And  at  Bricktop's  they  met  an  American  woman 
who  was  giving  a  farewell  party.  She  was  Mrs.  Oscar 
Willis,  the  artist — again — a  long  way  from  California. 

"What's  the  idea?"  said  Lesche.  "Are  you  committing 
suicide,  Mrs.  Willis,  or  going  home,  or  what?  Why  a 
farewell  party?" 

"I  am  retiring  from  life,"  said  Mrs.  Willis,  shouting 
above  the  frenzy  of  the  Negro  band.  "I'm  giving  up  art. 
I'm  going  to  look  for  happiness.  I'm  going  into  the  colony 
near  Digne." 

"Whose  colony?"  said  Lesche.  He  remembered  how 
much  colonies  cost,  thinking  of  the  art  group. 

"Mogador  Bonatz's  colony,"  said  Mrs.  Willis.  "He's 
a  very  great  Slav  who  can  do  so  much  for  the  soul.  (Art 
does  nothing.)  Only  one  must  agree  to  stay  there  six 
months  when  one  goes." 

"Is  it  expensive?"  Lesche  asked  delicately.  "I'm 
feeling  awfully  tired,  too." 

"Only  £30  a  day,"  said  Mrs.  Willis.    "Have  a  drink?" 

They  drank  a  lot  of  champagne  and  said  farewell  to 
Mrs.  Willis  while  the  jazz  band  boomed  and  Bricktop 
shouted  an  occasional  blues.  Then  Sol  had  an  idea.  After 
all,  he  was  tired  of  gyms — why  not  start  a  colony?  He 
mentioned  it  to  Lesche  when  they  got  out  into  the  open 
air. 

"Hell,  yes,"  said  Lesche  as  they  crossed  Pigalle.  "Let's 
start  a  colony." 

From  then  on  in  Paris,  Sol  and  Lesche  studied  soul 

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Langston  Hughes 

cults.  By  night  they  went  to  Montmartre.  By  day  they 
read  occult  books  and  thought  how  much  people  needed 
to  retire  and  find  beauty — and  pay  for  it.  By  night  they 
danced  to  the  Negro  jazz  bands.  And  all  the  time  they 
thought  how  greatly  they  needed  a  colony. 

"You  see  how  much  people  pay  that  guy  Bonatz?" 
said  Sol. 

"Um-huh!"  said  Lesche,  drinking  from  a  tall  glass  at 
Josephine's.  "And  you  see  how  much  they'll  spend  on 
Harlem  jazz,  even  in  Paris?" 

"Yeah,"  said  Sol,  "we're  spending  it  ourselves.  But 
what's  that  got  to  do  with  colonies?" 

"Looks  like  to  me,"  said  Lesche,  "a  sure  way  to  make 
money  would  be,  combine  a  jazz  band  and  a  soul  colony, 
and  let  it  roll  from  there — black  rhythm  and  happy 
souls." 

"I  see,"  said  Sol.    "That's  not  as  silly  as  it  sounds." 

"Let  'em  be  mystic  and  have  fun,  too,"  said  Lesche. 

"What  do  you  mean,  mystic?"  asked  Sol. 

"High  brow  fun,"  said  Lesche.  "Like  they  get  from 
Bonatz.  What  do  you  suppose  he's  got  we  can't  get?" 

"Nothing,"  said  Sol,  who  learned  to  sell  ideas  in  Holly- 
wood. "Now,  you  got  the  personality.  With  me  for 
manager,  a  jazz  band  for  background,  and  a  little  show- 
manship, it  could  be  a  riot." 

"A  riot  is  right,"  said  Lesche. 

When  they  returned  to  America,  they  stayed  in 
New  York.  Sol  got  hold  of  a  secretary  who  knew  a  lot  of 
rich  addresses  and  some  rich  people.  Together  they  got 
hold  of  a  smart  young  man  from  Yale  who  prepared  a 
program  of  action  for  a  high  brow  cult  of  joy — featuring 
the  primitive.  Then  they  got  ready  to  open  a  Colony. 

They  cabled  Mrs.  Willis  at  Digne  for  the  names  of 
some  of  her  friends  who  might  need  their  souls  fixed  up — 
in  America.  They  sent  out  a  little  folder.  And  they  had 

213 


Rejuvenation  through  Joy 

the  young  Yale  man  write  a  few  articles  on  Contentment 
and  Aboriginal  Rhythms  for  Lesche  to  try  on  the  high 
brow  magazines. 

They  really  had  a  lot  of  nerve. 

Lesche  learned  his  lectures  by  heart  that  the  college 
boy  wrote.  Then,  he  improvised,  added  variations  of  his 
own,  made  them  personal,  and  bought  a  morning  coat. 
Nightly  he  went  to  Harlem,  brushing  up  on  the  newer 
rhythms.  In  November,  they  opened  cold  in  the  grand 
ballroom  of  the  hotel  facing  the  Park,  without  even  a 
try-out  elsewhere:  Six  lectures  by  Eugene  Lesche  on 
Joy  in  Relation  to  the  Mind,  Body,  and  Soul. 

"Might  as  well  take  a  big  chance,"  said  Sol.  "Win 
or  lose." 

They  won.  In  Sol's  language,  they  wowed  'em.  When 
the  Friday  Morning  Series  began,  the  ballroom  was  half 
full.  When  it  ended,  it  was  crowded  and  Sol  had  already 
signed  the  lease  for  the  old  Westchester  estate. 

So  many  people  were  in  need  of  rejuvenating  their 
souls  and  could  seemingly  still  afford  to  pay  for  it  that 
Sol  gave  up  the  idea  for  returning  immediately  to  his 
gym  in  Hollywood.  Souls  seemed  more  important  than 
bodies. 

"How  about  it,  Lesche?" 

The  intelligentsia  dubbed  their  highly  publicized  efforts 
neo-paganism;  others  called  it  one  more  return  to  the 
primitive;  others  said  out  loud,  it  was  a  gyp  game.  Some 
said  the  world  was  turning  passionate  and  spiritual;  some 
said  it  was  merely  a  sign  of  the  decadence  of  the  times. 
But  everybody  talked  about  it.  The  papers  began  to 
write  about  it.  And  the  magazines  that  winter,  from  the 
Junior  League  Bulletin  to  the  Nation,  even  the  New 
Masses,  remarked — usually  snootily — but  nevertheless 
remarked — about  this  Cult  of  Joy.  (Harlem  Hedonism, 
the  Forum  called  it.)  Lesche's  publicity  men  who'd 
started  it  all,  demanded  higher  wages,  so  Sol  fired  them. 

214 


Langston  Hughes 

The  thing  went  rolling  of  its  own  accord.   The  world  was 
aware — of  Joy!  The  Westchester  Colony  prospered. 

Ten  days  before  the  January  opening  of  the  Colony, 
the  huge  mansion  of  the  once  aristocratic  estate  hummed 
with  activity.  It  looked  like  a  Broadway  theatre  before 
a  premiere.  Decorators  were  working  for  big  effects. 
(They  hoped  House  and  Garden,  Vogue,  or  Vanity  Fair 
would  picturize  their  super-modernistic  results.)  The 
house  manager,  a  former  hotel-head  out  of  work,  was 
busy  getting  his  staff  together — trying  to  keep  them 
French — for  the  swank  of  it. 

The  bed-rooms  were  receiving  special  attention.  At 
Lesche's,  sleep  also  was  to  be  a  joy.  And  each  private 
bathroom  was  being  fitted  with  those  special  apparatus 
at  colonies  necessary  for  the  cleansing  of  the  body — for 
Sol  and  Lesche  had  hired  a  doctor  to  tell  them  what  the 
best  cults  used. 

"Body  and  soul,"  said  Sol.    "Body  and  soul." 

"Gimme  the  body,"  said  Lesche,  "and  let  the  Yale 
man  take  care  of  the  soul." 

Occult  assistants,  chefs  and  waitresses,  masseurs  and 
hairdressers,  began  to  arrive — for  the  house  was  to  be 
fully  staffed.  And  there  were  plenty  of  first-class  people 
out  of  work  and  willing  to  take  a  chance,  too. 

Upstairs  in  a  third  floor  room,  Lesche,  like  an  actor 
preparing  for  a  role,  studied  his  lectures  word  for  word. 
His  former  wife  listened  to  him  daily,  reciting  them  by 
heart,  puzzling  over  their  allusions. 

In  another  room  was  the  Yale  man,  surrounded  by  books 
on  primitive  art,  spiritual  guidance,  Negro  jazz,  German 
eurythmics,  psychoanalysis,  Yogi  philosophy,  all  of 
Krishnamurti,  half  of  Havelock  Ellis,  and  most  of  Freud, 
besides  piles  of  spirituals,  jazz  records,  Paul  Robeson, 
and  Ethel  Waters,  and  in  the  midst  of  all  this — a  type- 
writer. There  sat  the  Yale  man  creating  lectures — 

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Rejuvenation  through  Joy 

preparing,  for  a  month  in  advance,  twenty-minute  daily 
talks  for  the  great  Lesche. 

On  the  day  when  the  Negroes  arrived  for  their  rehears- 
als, just  prior  to  the  opening  of  the  place,  Sol  gave  them 
a  lecture.    " Fellows/'  he  said,  addressing  the  band,  "and 
Miss  Lucas,"  to  the  blues-singing  little  coal-black  dancer, 
"listen!    Now  I  want  to  tell  you  about  this  place.    This 
will  not  be  no  night  club.    Nor  will  it  be  a  dance  hall. 
This  place  is  more  like  a  church.    It's  for  the  rebuilding 
of  souls — and  bodies.     It's  for  helping  people.     People 
who  are  wore  out  and  tired,  sick  and  bored,  ennui-ed  in 
other  words,  will  come  here  for  treatments,  the  kind  of 
treatments,  that  Mr.  Lesche  and  I  have  devised,  which 
includes  music,  the  best  music,  jazz,  real  primitive  jazz 
out  of  Africa  (you  know,  Harlem)  to  help  'em  learn  to 
move,  to  walk,  to  live  in  harmony  with  their  times  and 
themselves.    Now,  I  want  you  all  to  be  ladies  and  gentle- 
men (I  know  you  are),  to  play  with  abandon,  to  give  'em 
all  you  got,  but  don't  treat  this  like  a  rough  house,  nor 
like  the  Moon  Club  either.     We  allow  only  champagne 
drinkers  here,  cultured  ladies,  nice  gentlemen,  the  best, 
the  very  best.    Park  Avenue.    You  know  what  I  mean. 
.  .  .  Now  this  is  the  order  of  the  day.    In  the  morning 
at  eleven,  Mr.  Lesche  will  lecture  in  the  Palm  Garden, 
glass-enclosed,  on  the  Art  of  Motion  and  Rhythm.    You, 
Miss  Tulane  Lucas,  and  you  two  tap  dancers  there,  will 
illustrate.     You  will  show  grace  in  modern  movements, 
aliveness,  the  beat  of  Africa  as  expressed  through  the 
body.  Mr.  Lesche  will  illustrate,  too.  He's  one  of  Bill  Rob- 
inson's  disciples,  you   know!     You   all  know  how  tap- 
dancing  has  preserved  Bill.    A  man  of  his  age,  past  fifty! 
Well,  we  want  to  show  our  clients  how  it  can  preserve 
them.     But  don't  do  no  stunts  now,  just  easy  rhythm 
stuff.    We  got  to  start  'em  off  slow.    Some  of  'em  is  old. 
And   I   expect  some  is   Christian   Scientists.  .  .  .  Then 

216 


Langston  Hughes 

in  the  late  afternoon,  we  will  have  tea-dancing,  just  for 
pleasure.  We  want  to  give  'em  plenty  of  exercise,  so 
they  won't  be  bored.  And  so  they  will  eat.  We  expect 
to  make  money  on  our  table,  and  on  massages,  too.  In 
the  evening  for  one  hour,  put  on  the  best  show  you  got, 
singing  and  dancing — every  week  we  gonna  bring  up 
new  specialties — send  'em  to  bed  feeling  happy,  before 
Mr.  Lesche  gives  his  goodnight  and  sweet  dreams  talk. 
.  .  .  Now,  you  boys  understand,  you'll  be  off  early  here, 
by  ten  or  eleven.  Not  like  at  the  Club.  You  got  your 
own  cottage  here  on  the  estate  to  live  in,  you  got  your 
cars.  Don't  mind  you  driving  to  town,  if  you  want  to, 
but  I  want  you  back  here  for  the  eleven  o'clock  services 
in  the  morning.  And  I  don't  want  you  sleepy,  either. 
This  house  is  dedicated  to  Joy,  and  all  who  work  here 
have  got  to  be  bright  and  snappy.  That's  what  our 
people  are  paying  for.  .  .  .  Lesche!  Where  is  Lesche, 
Miss  Boxall?" 

The  secretary  looked  startled.  "He  was  in  the  halls 
talking  to  the  new  French  maids." 

"Well,  get  him  in  here.  Tell  him  to  explain  to  these 
boys  how  he  wants  to  fix  up  his  routine  for  his  lectures. 
Let's  get  down  to  business  now." 

"What  kind  of  clothes  you  want  us  to  wear?"  Happy 
Lane,  the  Negro  leader,  asked. 

"Red,"  said  Sol.    "Red  is  the  color  of  Joy." 

"Lord!"  said  the  blues  singer,  "I'm  too  dark  to  wear 
red!" 

"That's  what  we  want,"  said  Sol,  "darkness  and  light! 
We  want  to  show  'em  how  much  light  there  is  in  darkness." 

"Now,  here!"  said  the  blues  singer  to  herself,  "I  don't 
like  no  white  folks  talkin'  'bout  me  being  dark." 

"Lesche,"  Sol  called  to  his  partner  strolling  in  through 
the  door,  "let's  get  going." 

"O.  K.,"  Lesche  said.  "Where's  my  boy?"  meaning 
the  Yale  man. 

217 


Rejuvenation  through  Joy 

"Right  here,  Gene." 

"Now,  how  does  that  first  lecture  go?" 

"My  Gawd!"  said  Sol. 

The  Yale  man  referred  to  his  notes.  "Joy"  he  read, 
"Joy,  springing  from  the  dark  rhythm  of  the  primitive.  .  .  ." 

"Oh,  yes,"  said  Lesche,  turning  to  the  band.  "Now 
for  that,  give  me  Mood  Indigo,  you  know,  soft  and  synco- 
pated, moan  it  soft  and  low.  Then  you,  Miss  Lucas,"  to 
the  dancer,  "you  come  gliding  on.  Give  it  plenty  hip 
movement.  I  want  'em  to  learn  to  use  their  life-center. 
Then  I'm  gonna  say  .  .  .  what's  that,  boy-friend?"  to 
the  Yale  man. 

"See  how  the  ..." 

"Oh,  yes  .  .  .  See  how  the  Negroes  live,  dark  as  the 
earth,  the  primitive  earth,  swaying  like  trees,  rooted  in  the 
deepest  source  of  life.  .  .  .  Then  I'm  gonna  have  'em  all 
rise  and  sway,  like  Miss  Lucas  here.  .  .  .  That  ought 
to  keep  'em  from  being  bored  until  lunch  time." 

"Lawd,"  said  Miss  Lucas,  muttering  to  herself,  "what 
is  this,  a  dancing  school  or  a  Sunday  school?"  And  louder, 
"All  right,  Mr.  Lesche,  sounds  like  it  might  be  a  good 
act." 

"Act,  nothing,"  said  Sol.    "This  is  the  art  of  life." 

"Must  be,  if  you  say  so,"  said  Miss  Lucas. 

"Well,  let's  go,"  commanded  the  great  Lesche.  "Let's 
rehearse  this  first  lecture  now.  Come  on,  boys." 

The  jazz  band  began  to  cry  Mood  Indigo  in  the  best 
manner  of  the  immortal  Duke  Ellington.  Lesche  began 
to  speak  in  his  great  soft  voice.  Bushy-haired  Tulane 
Lucas  began  to  glide  across  the  floor. 

"Goddamn!"  said  Sol,  "It's  worth  the  money!" 

"Hey!   Hey!"  said  Miss  Lucas. 

" Sh-ss-ss-s ! "  said  Lesche.  "Be  dignified  .  .  .  rooted 
in  the  deepest  source  of  life  .  .  .  er-r-r?" 

"...(?,  early  soul  in  motion  .  .  ."  prompted  the 
Yale  man. 

218 


Langston  Hughes 

"0,  early  soul  .  .  ."  intoned  Lesche. 

The  amazing  collection  of  people  gathered  together  in 
the  Colony  of  Joy  astounded  even  Lesche,  whose  very 
blase-ness  was  what  really  made  him  appear  so  fresh.  His 
thirty-seven  clients  in  residence  came  almost  all  from 
families  high  in  the  Social  Register,  and  equally  high 
in  the  financial  world.  When  Mrs.  Carlos  deed's  check 
of  entrance  came  in,  Sol  said,  "Boy,  we're  made"  .  .  . 
for  of  society  there  could  be  no  higher — blue  blood  straight 
out  of  Back  Bay. 

The  opening  of  the  Colony  created  a  furor  among  all 
the  smart  neurasthenics  from  Park  Avenue  right  on  up 
to  New  England.  Dozens  applied  too  late,  and  failed  to 
get  in.  Others  drove  up  daily  for  the  lectures. 

Of  those  who  came,  some  had  belonged  formerly  to  the 
self-denial  cults;  others  to  Gurdjieff;  others  had  been 
analyzed  in  Paris,  Berlin,  Vienna;  had  consulted  Adler, 
Hirschfeld,  Freud.  Some  had  studied  under  famous  Yogi. 
Others  had  been  at  Nyack.  Now  they  had  come  to  the 
Colony  of  Joy. 

Up  and  down  Park  Avenue  miraculous  gossip  flew. 

Why,  Mrs.  Charles  Duveen  Althouse  of  Newport  and 
Paris — feeling  bad  for  years — is  said  to  look  like  a  cherub 
since  she's  gone  into  the  Colony.  .  .  .  My  dear,  the 
famous  Oriental  fan-painter,  Vankulmer  Jones — he's 
another  man  these  days.  The  rhythms,  he  says,  the 
rhythms  have  worked  wonders!  And  just  the  very  pres- 
ence of  Lesche  .  .  .  Nothing  America  has  ever  known — 
rumor  flew  about  the  penthouses  of  the  East  River — 
nothing  is  equal  to  it.  ...  The  Baroness  Langstrund 
gasped  in  a  letter  to  a  talkative  friend,  "My  God,  it's 
marvellous!" 

Far  better  than  Indian  thought,  Miss  Joan  Reeves, 
the  heiress  of  Meadow  Brook,  was  said  to  have  said  by 
her  best  friends.  "The  movement  is  amazing." 

Almost  all  of  them  had  belonged  to  cults  before — cults 

219 


Rejuvenation  through  Joy 

that  had  never  satisfied.  Some  had  even  been  injured  by 
them.  To  a  cult  that  based  the  soul-search  on  self-denial — 
deny  what  you  like  best,  have  it  around  you  all  the  time, 
but  never  touch  it,  never — then  you  will  be  strong — 
Mrs.  Duveen  Althouse  had  belonged.  She  denied  choc- 
olates for  a  whole  year;  kept  fresh  candy  sitting  in  each 
corner  of  her  boudoir — resisted  with  all  her  soul — and 
at  the  end  of  a  year  was  a  wreck. 

Mr.  Jones,  the  fan-painter,  had  belonged  to  a  group 
on  Cape  Cod  that  believed  in  change  through  change: 
that  is,  whatever  you  want  to  be,  you  can.  And  all  the 
members,  after  they  had  paid  their  fees,  were  told  by 
the  Mystic  Master  to  change  their  names  to  whatever 
they  most  wished  to  be,  or  whoever,  past  or  present,  they 
admired.  Some,  without  much  depth,  chose  Napoleon 
or  Cleopatra.  But  others,  Daphne  or  Zeus  or  Merry 
del  Val.  Mr.  Jones  chose  Horse.  He'd  always  wanted  to 
be  an  animal,  to  possess  their  strength  and  calm,  their 
vigor,  their  ways.  But  after  a  whole  summer  at  the  Cape 
he  was  even  less  of  a  horse  than  before.  And  greatly  mos- 
quito bitten. 

Mrs.  Ken  Prather,  II,  a  member  of  Lesche's  group, 
had  once  spent  entire  months  kneeling  holding  her  big 
toes  behind  her,  deep  in  contemplation.  A  most  hand- 
some Indian  came  once  a  week  to  her  home  on  East  64th, 
for  an  enormous  consideration,  and  gave  her  lessons  in 
silence,  and  in  positions  of  thought.  But  finally  she  just 
couldn't  stand  it  any  more. 

Others  of  the  Colony  of  Joy  had  been  Scientists  in  their 
youth.  Others  had  wandered,  disappointed,  the  ways  of 
spiritualism,  never  finding  soul-mates;  still  others  had 
gazed  solemnly  into  crystals,  but  had  seen  nothing  but 
darkness;  now,  they  had  come  to  Joy! 

How  did  it  happen  that  nobody  before  had  ever  offered 
them  Rejuvenation  through  Joy?  Why,  that  was  what 
they  had  been  looking  for  all  these  years!  And  who  would 

220 


Langston  Hughes 

have  thought  it  might  come  through  the  amusing  and 
delightful  rhythms  of  Negroes  ? 
Nobody  but  Lesche. 

In  the  warm  glass-enclosed  Palm  Garden  that  winter, 
where  the  cupid  fountain  had  been  replaced  by  an  en- 
largement of  an  African  plastic  and  where  a  jazz  band 
played  soft  and  low  behind  the  hedges,  they  felt  (those 
who  were  there  by  virtue  of  their  check  books)  all 
a-tremble  in  the  depths  of  their  souls  after  they  had  done 
their  African  exercises  looking  at  Lesche — those  slow, 
slightly  grotesque,  center-swaying  exercises  that  he  and 
Tulane  Lucas  from  the  Moon  Club  had  devised.  When 
they  had  finished,  the  movement,  the  music,  and  Lesche's 
voice,  made  them  feel  all  warm  and  close  to  the  earth, 
and  as  though  they  never  wanted  to  leave  the  Colony  of 
Joy  or  to  be  away  from  their  great  leader  again. 

Of  course,  there  were  a  few  who  left,  but  their  places 
were  soon  filled  by  others  more  truly  mystic  in  the  prim- 
itive sense  than  those  whose  arteries  had  already  hard- 
ened, and  who  somehow  couldn't  follow  a  modern  path 
to  happiness,  or  sit  on  African  stools.  Clarence  Lochard, 
for  one,  with  his  spine,  had  needed  actual  medical  treat- 
ment not  to  be  found  at  the  Colony  of  Joy.  And 
Mrs.  J.  Northcliff  Hill,  in  the  seventies,  was  a  little  too 
old  for  even  the  simple  exercises  that  led  to  center-swaying, 
But  for  the  two  or  three  who  went  away,  four  or  five 
came.  And  the  house  was  full  of  life  and  soul.  Every 
morning,  ensemble,  they  lifted  up  their  hands  to  the  sun 
when  the  earth-drums  rang  out — and  the  sun  was  Lesche, 
standing  right  there. 

Lesche  was  called  the  New  Leader.  The  Negro  band- 
master was  known  as  Happy  Man.  The  dancers  were 
called  the  Primitives.  The  drummer  was  ritualized  as 
Earth-Drummer.  And  the  devotees  were  called  New 
Men,  New  Women — for  the  Yale  man  had  written  in 

221 


Rejuvenation  through  Joy 

one  of  the  lectures,  "and  the  age-old  rhythm  of  the  earth 
as  expressed  by  the  drums  is  also  the  ever  new  rhythm  of  life. 
And  all  you  who  walk  to  it,  dance  to  it,  live  to  it,  are  New 
Men  and  New  Women.  You  shall  call  one  another,  not  by 
the  old  names  but  only  New  Man,  New  Woman,  New  One, 
forgetting  the  past." 

They  called  Lesche,  Dear  New  Leader. 

"For,"  continued  the  gist  of  that  particular  lecture, 
"newness,  eternal  renewal,  is  the  source  of  all  growth,  all 
life,  and  as  we  grow  from  day  to  day  here  in  this  colony,  we 
shall  be  ever  new,  ever  joyous  and  new" 

"Gimme  sweet  jazz  on  that  line,"  Lesche  had  instructed 
at  rehearsals.  So  on  the  thrilling  morning  of  that  lecture, 
the  saxophones  and  clarinets  moaned  so  beautiful  and 
low,  the  drum  beats  called  behind  the  palms  with  such 
wistful  syncopation,  that  everybody  felt  impelled  to 
move  a  new  way  as  Lesche  said,  "Let  us  rise  this  morning 
and  do  a  new  dance,  the  dance  of  our  new  selves."  And 
thirty-nine  life-centers  began  to  sway  with  the  greatest 
of  confidence  in  the  palm  court,  for  by  now  many  inhibi- 
tions had  fallen  away,  and  the  first  exercise  had  been 
learned  perfectly. 

Who  knows  how  long  all  might  have  gone  on  splendidly 
with  Lesche  and  Sol  and  their  Colony  of  Joy  had  not  a 
most  unhappy  monster  entered  in  to  plague  them.  "The 
monster  that's  in  every  man,"  wrote  the  Yale  man  later 
in  his  diary,  "the  monster  of  jealousy — came  to  break 
down  joy." 

For  the  various  New  Ones  became  jealous  of  Lesche. 

"  It's  your  fault,"  stormed  Sol.  "  Your  fault.  I  told  you 
to  treat  'em  all  the  same.  I  told  you  if  you  had  to  walk  in 
the  snow  by  moonlight,  walk  with  your  used-to-be  wife,  and 
leave  the  rest  of  these  ladies  alone.  You  know  how  women 
are.  I  told  you  not  to  start  that  Private  Hour  in  the  after- 
noon. I  knew  it  would  make  trouble,  create  jealousy." 

222 


Langston  Hughes 

For  out  of  the  Private  Hour  devoted  to  the  problems 
of  each  New  One  once  a  fortnight,  where  Lesche  never 
advised  (he  couldn't)  but  merely  received  alone  in  con- 
fidence their  troubles  for  contemplation,  out  of  this  pri- 
vate hour  erelong,  howls,  screams,  and  recriminations 
were  heard  to  issue  almost  daily.  And  in  late  March, 
New  Woman  Althouse  was  known  to  have  thrown  an 
African  mask  at  New  Leader  Lesche  because  he  kept  her 
waiting  a  whole  hour  overtime  while  he  devoted  his 
attentions  to  the  Meadow  Brook  heiress,  New  Woman 
Reeves. 

"My  Gawd!"  said  Sol,  "the  house  is  buzzing  with 
scandal — I  heard  it  all  from  Vankulmer  Jones." 

"These  damn  women,"  said  Lesche,  "I  got  to  get  rid 
of  some  of  these  women." 

"You  can't,"  said  Sol.    "They've  all  paid." 

"Well,  I  will,"  said  Lesche,  "I'm  tired!  Why  even  my 
divorced  wife's  in  love  with  me  again.  Fire  her,  will 
you?" 

"Don't  be  foolish,"  said  Sol,  "she's  a  good  secretary." 

"Well,  I'm  gonna  quit,"  said  Lesche. 

"You  can't,"  said  Sol.    "I  got  you  under  contract." 

"Oh,  yeah?"  said  Lesche.  "Too  much  is  enough!  And 
sometimes  enough  is  too  much!  I'm  tired,  I  tell  you." 

So  they  fell  out.  But  Lesche  didn't  quit.  It  might  have 
been  better  if  he  had,  for  Spring  that  year  was  all  too 
sudden  and  full  of  implications.  The  very  earth  seemed 
to  moan  with  excess  of  joy.  Life  was  just  too  much  to 
bear  alone.  It  needed  to  be  shared,  its  beauty  given  to 
others,  taken  in  return.  Its  eternal  newness  united. 

To  the  Colony,  Lesche  was  their  Leader,  their  life.  And 
they  wanted  him,  each  one,  alone.  In  desperation,  he 
abolished  the  Private  Hour.  But  that  didn't  help  any. 
Mrs.  Duveen  Althouse  was  desperately  in  love  with  him 
now.  (She  called  him  Pan.)  Miss  Joan  Reeves  could  not 
turn  her  eyes  away.  (He  was  her  god.)  Mrs.  Carlos  Gleed 

223 


Rejuvenation  through  Joy 

insisted  that  he  summer  at  her  island  place  in  Maine. 
Baroness  Langstrund  announced  quite  definitely  she 
intended  to  many  him — whereupon  Mrs.  Althouse,  who 
had  thrown  the  mask,  threatened,  without  ceremony, 
to  wring  at  once  the  Baroness's  neck.  Several  other  New 
Ones  stopped  speaking  to  each  other  over  Lesche.  Even 
the  men  members  were  taking  sides  for  or  against  Lesche, 
or  against  each  other.  That  dear  soul  Vankulmer  Jones 
said  he  simply  couldn't  stand  it  any  more — and  left. 

In  the  city,  the  Broadway  gossip  columns  got  hold  of 
it — this  excitement  over  Joy — and  began  to  wisecrack. 
Then  suddenly  a  minister  started  a  crusade  against  the 
doings  of  the  rich  at  the  Colony  and  the  tabloids  sent 
men  up  to  get  pictures.  Blackmailers,  scenting  scandal, 
began  to  blackmail.  The  righteous  and  the  racketeers 
both  sprang  into  action.  And  violets  bloomed  in  April. 

Sol  tore  his  hair.    "We're  ruined!" 

"Who  cares?"  said  Lesche,  "let's  go  back  to  the  Holly- 
wood gym.  We  made  plenty  on  this.  And  I've  still  got 
the  Hispano  Mrs.  Hancock  donated." 

"But  we  could've  made  millions." 

"We'll  come  back  to  it  next  year,"  said  Lesche.  "And 
get  some  fresh  New  Ones.  I'm  damn  tired  of  these  old 
ones."  And  so  they  bickered. 

But  the  final  fireworks  were  set  off  by  Miss  Tulane 
Lucas,  the  dusky  female  of  the  Primitives.  They  began 
over  the  Earth-Drummer,  and  really  had  nothing  to  do 
with  the  Colony.  But  fire,  once  started,  often  spreads 
beyond  control. 

The  drummer  belonged  to  Miss  Lucas.  But  when  Spring 
came,  he  got  a  bad  habit  of  driving  down  to  New  York 
after  work  every  night  and  not  getting  back  till  morning. 

"Another  woman,"  said  Tulane  to  herself,  "after  all 
I've  done."  She  warned  him,  but  he  paid  her  no  mind. 

One  April  morning,  just  in  time  to  play  for  the  eleven 
o'clock  lecture,  with  Lesche  already  on  the  platform,  the 

224 


Langston  Hughes 

little  colored  drummer  arrived  late  and,  without  even 
having  gone  by  the  cottage  to  greet  Tulane — rushed  into 
the  palm  court  and  took  his  place  at  the  earth-drums. 

"Oh,  no!"  said  Tulane  suddenly  from  among  the  palms 
while  all  the  New  Ones,  contemplating  on  their  African 
stools,  started  at  the  unwonted  sound.  "Oh,  no,  you 
don't,"  she  said.  "You  have  drummed  for  your  last 
time."  And  she  took  a  pistol  from  her  bosom  and  shot. 

Bang!  .  .  .  Bang!  .  .  .  Bang! 

Screams  rent  the  palm  court.  As  the  drummer  fled, 
bang!  a  bullet  hit  somewhere  near  his  life-center,  but  he 
kept  on.  Pandemonium  broke  out. 

"My  Gawd!"  said  Sol.  "Somebody  grab  that  gun." 
But  Mrs.  Duveen  Althouse  beat  him  to  it.  From  Tulane, 
she  snatched  the  weapon  for  herself  and  approached  the 
great  Lesche. 

"How  right  to  shoot  the  one  you  love!"  she  cried. 
"How  primitive,  how  just!"  And  she  pointed  the  gun 
directly  at  their  dear  Leader. 

Again  shots  rang  out.  One  struck  the  brass  curve  of 
the  bass  horn,  glanced  upward  toward  the  ceiling,  and 
crashed  through  the  glass  of  the  sun  court,  showering 
slivers  on  everybody. 

But  by  that  time,  Baroness  Langstrund  had  thrown 
herself  on  Duveen  Althouse.  "Aw-oo!"  she  screamed. 
"You  wretch,  shooting  the  man  I  love."  Her  fingers 
sought  the  other's  hair,  her  nails  tore  at  her  eyes.  Mean- 
while, Mrs.  Carlos  Gleed  threw  an  African  stool. 

Mrs.  Althouse  fired  once  more — but  Lesche  had  gone. 
The  final  bullet  hit  only  the  marble  floor,  flew  upward 
through  the  piano,  and  sounded  a  futile  chord. 

By  this  time,  Sol  had  grabbed  the  gun.  The  screams 
died.  Somebody  separated  the  two  women.  Little  French 
maids  came  running  with  water  for  the  fainting.  Happy 
Lane  emerged  from  behind  the  bass-viol,  pale  as  an 
African  ghost — but  nobody  knew  where  the  rest  of  the 

225 


Rejuvenation  through  Joy 

jazz  band  had  disappeared,  nor  Lesche  either.  They  were 
long  gone. 

There  was  no  lecture  that  morning.  Indeed,  there 
were  never  any  more  lectures.  That  was  the  end  of  the 
Colony  of  Joy. 

The  newspapers  laughed  about  it  for  weeks,  published 
pictures  and  names  of  the  wealthy  inmates;  the  columnists 
wisecracked.  It  was  all  very  terrible!  As  a  final  touch, 
one  of  the  tabloids  claimed  to  have  discovered  that  the 
great  Lesche  was  a  Negro — passing  for  white! 


226 


THE  POOR  RELATION  AND 
THE  SECRETARY 

by 
Naomi  Mitchison 


MRS.  NAOMI  HALDANE  MITCHISON,  born  in  England  in 
is  the  author  of  a  remarkable  historical  novel  with  a 
$rd  century  B.  c.  Scythian-Greek-Egyptian  setting,  The 
Corn  King  and  the  Spring  Queen,  and  several  volumes  of 
short  stories,  among  them  Black  Sparta,  When  the  Bough 
Breaks,  and  The  Delicate  Fire;  also  the  novel  Cloud 
Cuckoo  Land. 


THE  POOR  RELATION  AND  THE  SECRETARY 

UNTIL  they  were  a  mile  outside  Rome,  Claudia  kept 
the  curtains  of  the  litter  drawn.  She  did  not  like 
crowds  and  was  bad  at  answering  back  if  someone 
was  rude.  Those  always  seemed  to  be  the  moments  the 
bearers  chose  to  go  slowest.  Naturally  she  had  been  given 
the  oldest  and  slowest  bearers,  but  she  did  not  expect 
anything  else;  she  was  lucky  to  have  that.  In  the  half  light 
of  the  jolting  litter,  she  looked  through  her  tablets,  con- 
sidering the  long  list  of  things  she  was  to  do  when  she  got 
to  the  country  house.  Which  room  Lady  Quintilia  was  to 
have,  and  which  Lady  Rufa,  and  all  the  rest  of  them; 
what  curtains  were  to  go  where;  what  provisions  she  was 
to  get  in;  which  of  the  country  slaves  were  to  be  told  to  do 
what;  she  was  to  see  that  the  fountains  were  started — no, 
Phillos  could  do  that,  it  was  a  man's  job — and  have  the 
aviary  cleaned  up  and  if  necessary  re-stocked;  the  garden 
was  to  look  nice  for  the  guests.  And  so  on  and  so  forth. 
She  thought  she  could  manage  it  all,  though  she  had  not 
been  given  much  time.  They  wouldn't  for  instance  notice 
about  the  aviary  for  days!  But  she  was  a  competent 
person,  as  they  all  said.  If  one  was  a  poor  relation  whose 
parents  had  been  Unfortunate — as  one  always  said — dur- 
ing the  Civil  Wars,  it  was  as  well  to  be  competent.  Or 
beautiful.  But  she  was  not  that.  And  the  family  standard 
was  particularly  high.  Was  there  not  the  exquisite  Lady 
Norbana  whom  the  Emperor  himself — well,  better  not 
mention  it  perhaps,  considering  she  was  to  be  married  next 
month.  Some  conventions  are  better  kept  up. 

Once  out  on  the  road  beyond  the  houses,  she  drew  the 

From  The  Delicate  Fire  by  Naomi  Mitchison.    Reprinted  by  permission  of 
Harcourt,  Brace  and  Company,  Inc. 

229 


The  Poor  Relation  and  the  Secretary 

curtains  a  little.  Phillos,  the  secretary,  was  walking  level 
with  her.  The  baggage  mules  were  behind.  She  looked  out 
across  acres  of  green  vineyard,  not  very  interesting,  but 
still,  the  country  would  be  pleasant  after  all  these  months 
in  town.  Phillos  looked  up  and  smiled  a  little,  but  said 
nothing;  it  was  not  his  place  to  speak  first.  He  seemed  to 
be  walking  rather  lame.  She  asked  him  if  he  would  see  to 
the  fountains,  and  he  said  yes,  but  would  she  give  him 
authority?  The  country  slaves  never  saw  any  reason  why 
they  should  do  what  he  said.  "It's  bad  enough  with  the 
bailiff,"  he  said,  "but  at  any  rate  they  know  I'm  there  to 
do  accounts.  Still,  he  makes  it  as  difficult  as  possible." 

Claudia  leaned  over  the  edge  of  the  litter  and  laughed. 
"He's  a  horrid  man!"  she  said,  "but  I  don't  mind  dealing 
with  him  if  there's  any  special  difficulty,  Phillos.  He 
remembers  father,  so  he's  still  got  a  little  respect  for  me!" 

"Thank  you,  Miss  Claudia,"  said  Phillos  gratefully, 
"I  think  I  may  want  a  little  help.  It  was  bad  enough  last 
time.  I  can't  work  when  he  stands  over  me  and  grins." 

A  flock  of  sheep  went  by  just  then,  raising  a  cloud  of 
dust.  She  drew  her  curtains  against  it.  The  bearers  swore 
and  jolted  worse  than  ever.  She  shut  her  eyes  for  a  few 
minutes;  she  was  sorry  for  her  cousins'  secretary.  A  dog's 
life,  being  a  slave,  if  you  had  any  kind  of  perceptions  and 
fine  feelings.  She  wondered  if  they  were  going  to  free  him. 
Perhaps  later  on,  when  he  was  middle-aged;  then  he  would 
stay  on  with  them.  Probably  he  was  saving  up  to  buy  his 
freedom  now,  but  it  would  mean  a  good  deal  of  money, 
more  than  he  was  likely  to  have  for  a  long  time.  Middle 
age.  A  grim  business  to  grow  old  with  no  home  of  your 
own,  no  one  to  look  after  you  or  be  kind  to  you.  One  would 
go  on  being  competent  up  to  middle  age.  But  what  about 
later  on?  When  all  the  young  cousins  were  married  off, 
like  Norbana,  before  or  after  the  Emperor — well,  well,  she 
mustn't  be  catty  about  it!  But  it  must  be  wonderful  to 
have  men  wanting  you  like  that.  Anyone  wanting  you  for 

230 


Naomi  Mitchison 

anything  except — well,  competence.  Somebody  wanting 
you  just  to  be  kind  to  them. 

When  she  drew  the  curtains  again,  the  hills  were  in 
sight.  She  cried  out  with  pleasure:  "Aren't  they  lovely, 
Phillos!  So  cool  and  big  and  shadowy!  It  makes  one  think 
one's  a  child  again." 

He  looked  at  them  unenthusiastically.  Abruptly  he 
said :  "  I'd  like  some  day  to  see  the  Greek  hills.  My  mother 
used  to  tell  me  about  them.  Much  higher  than  these 
and  more  beautiful  shapes.  But  I  don't  suppose  I  ever 
shall." 

She  hardly  knew  what  to  say  to  that.  It  was  such  an 
odd  outburst,  from  Phillos  of  all  people,  who  one  never 
remembered  was  a  Greek  at  all!  Then  she  noticed  he  was 
really  walking  very  lame.  "What's  the  matter?"  she  said. 
"Have  you  cut  yourself?" 

"No,"  he  said.  "It's  only  my  knee,  Miss  Claudia.  It 
goes  like  that  after  a  few  miles." 

"Does  it  hurt?" 

"Not  very  much,"  he  said,  "thank  you  all  the  same  for 
asking." 

She  was  rather  distressed,  though;  the  man  looked 
whiteish,  like  someone  in  pain.  "You'd  better  get  up  into 
the  litter  for  a  mile  or  two;  that'll  ease  it."  She  called 
down  to  the  bearers  to  halt.  "Get  in  at  the  other  end; 
it'll  take  you  easily." 

Phillos  protested,  and  so,  more  loudly,  did  the  litter 
bearers,  one  of  whom  produced  a  sore  shoulder. 

"Nonsense,"  said  Claudia.  "Am  I  the  mistress  here,  or 
not?  No,  you  are  merely  being  lazy!  Change  to  the  other 
pole.  Men  that  can't  carry  a  litter  are  only  fit  for  field 
work — shall  I  tell  Lady  Quintilia  that?  Pretty  it  would  be 
for  your  mistress's  secretary  to  be  lamed  just  because  you 
are  a  set  of  good-for-nothing  dogs!  Up  you  get,  Phillos." 
The  litter  jolted  sullenly  on  again.  "I've  got  that  much 
authority,"  she  said,  satisfied.  "Now,  Phillos,  what  about 

231 


The  Poor  Relation  and  the  Secretary 

this  knee?  What's  wrong  with  it?  Why  haven't  I  known 
before?" 

"It's  an  old  blow,"  he  said.  "Really  Miss  Claudia,  you 
shouldn't  have  bothered!  It's  only  the  body.  The  stupid, 
unimportant  body." 

"Don't  go  trying  any  of  your  stoicism  on  me!"  said 
Claudia.  "I've  read  all  the  books.  A  pack  of  nonsense. 
One  can't  get  away  from  the  body.  When  was  it  done?" 

"Some  time  ago,"  he  said,  "my  last  place.  One  must 
have  some  philosophy,  and  that's  the  only  one  for  slaves." 

"If  I  were  you,"  said  Claudia,  "I  should  have  a  nice 
exciting  mystery  religion.  However,  I  can't  talk,  I  haven't 
got  one  myself!  What  about  these  Christians  one's  begin- 
ning to  hear  about? — wouldn't  that  be  comforting?" 

"A  lot  of  dirty  Jews!" 

"Well,  very  likely.  They're  all  much  alike,  I  dare  say. 
Or  there's  Isis.  I've  got  a  certain  feeling  for  Isis  myself. 
If  one  were  the  kind  of  person  who  liked  religions. — But 
about  this  knee,  did  someone  hit  you?" 

"Yes,  Miss  Claudia.  My  master.  I  suppose  I'd  been 
stupid.  But  he  did  know  where  to  get  one.  My  knee 
swelled  and  I  was  lame  for  a  long  time.  Now  it  only  gets 
me  when  I'm  tired." 

He  put  both  hands  down  on  his  knee,  pressing  over  it; 
he  had  broad,  clean  hands,  each  finger  separately  tensed. 
The  other  leg  was  curled  under  him  and  he  sat  rather  up- 
right, so  as  not  to  take  up  too  much  room.  She  reached 
over  and  handled  the  knee-cap  herself;  it  was  rather 
swollen.  She  was  used  to  dealing  with  sick  slaves — it  was 
part  of  her  job.  But  he  leant  back  away  from  her,  half 
shutting  his  eyes,  as  though  abstracting  himself,  leaving 
nothing  with  her  but  the  knee.  His  legs  were  very  dusty 
from  the  road,  but  not  stickily  engrained  like  some  of  the 
slave  skins  she  had  to  handle. 

When  they  got  to  the  villa,  she  became  immersed  in 
jobs,  and  was  startled  to  find  it  was  supper-time  when  they 

232 


Naomi  Mitchison 

came  to  tell  her.  She  had  rather  enjoyed  being  busy  and 
competent  and  talking  to  a  lot  of  people;  she  wanted  to  go 
on  talking.  "Tell  the  secretary  he  is  to  have  his  supper 
with  me,"  she  said,  "I've  a  lot  to  talk  over  with  him." 
Phillos  came  in  shyly,  bringing  in  his  tray,  which  looked 
rather  unappetising.  "This  is  very  kind  of  you,  Miss 
Claudia,"  he  said.  "Nonsense!"  she  said,  rather  surprised, 
because  she  had  really  had  no  idea  of  being  kind,  and  told 
them  sharply  to  bring  him  up  the  remains  of  the  bird  she 
was  having.  She  told  him  all  the  things  she  had  been 
doing  and  the  obstacles  which  she  had  been  successfully 
overcoming.  He  had  started  on  the  estate  accounts,  but 
was  a  little  depressed  about  them.  His  knee  seemed  to 
have  settled  down  again,  and  he  didn't  take  her  suggestion 
of  a  hot  poultice.  After  a  time  they  drifted  into  a  rather 
pleasant  philosophical  discussion,  seasoned  with  quota- 
tions. At  dusk  they  wished  each  other  good  night  and 
separated. 

Claudia  was  enjoying  herself.  She  liked  having  this 
large  house  to  herself  before  the  others  arrived.  She  went 
through  all  the  rooms  with  a  lamp,  talking  to  herself,  wel- 
coming or  speeding  imaginary  guests,  not  quite  daring  to 
go  the  whole  way  and  make  herself  husband  or  children. 
She  wished  the  others  weren't  coming  to-morrow  to  shatter 
her  images  against  their  own  brilliant  reality. 

The  next  morning  she  got  up  early  and  went  on  putting 
things  to  order;  she  found  Phillos  had  got  the  fountains  to 
work,  which  reminded  her  to  go  and  tackle  the  bailiff  for 
him.  The  man  was,  as  usual,  being  extremely  rude  and 
obstructive  about  his  accounts,  but  caved  in  to  her  at 
once,  with  reminiscences  of  her  father.  They  walked  out 
of  the  room  together  and  as  he  passed  the  secretary 
crouched  over  his  desk  and  the  rows  of  semi-legible  figures, 
he  tweaked  his  ear  rather  hard.  Phillos  said  nothing,  only 
frowned  more  deeply,  and  Claudia  said  nothing  either,  but 
it  annoyed  her.  "That  impudent  little  Greek!"  said  the 

233 


The  Poor  Relation  and  the  Secretary 

bailiff,  "I  can't  stand  the  fellow.  Why  Lady  Quintilia  has 
a  man  like  that!  Ah,  your  father,  now,  he  always  stuck  to 
his  own  people  and  didn't  get  cheated  out  of  a  quarter  so 
much."  But  Claudia  preferred  to  discuss  with  him  the 
rapid  bedding  out  of  damask  roses  and  blue  daisies  to  fill 
up  the  gaps  in  the  garden. 

She  put  flowers  in  the  rooms,  changed  her  dress  and  pre- 
pared to  receive  the  cousins,  but  instead  got  a  messenger 
on  mule-back  with  a  letter  to  say  that  they  weren't  coming 
till  the  next  day,  after  all.  A  party  had  materialized.  They 
did  hope  she  wasn't  too  bored!  She  sent  the  messenger  in 
for  a  drink,  and  stood  for  a  moment  with  the  letter  in  her 
hand.  No,  she  wasn't  bored!  She  could  have  her  own 
shadow  party  again  to-night.  And  this  afternoon?  She 
would  go  out  into  the  hills  where  she  and  her  cousins  had 
played  hide-and-seek  and  teased  the  shepherds — a  long 
time  ago,  when  they  were  all  equals,  more  or  less.  A  long 
time  ago,  under  old  Emperor  Claudius,  before  the  worst  of 
the  Troubles.  She  picked  up  her  cloak  and  started  out 
through  the  garden,  but  she  walked  slower  and  slower  and 
at  last  came  to  a  stop.  She  had  discovered  that  she  was 
rather  frightened  of  going  by  herself  into  the  hills  now.  So 
many  evil  things  had  happened  since  those  days;  she 
couldn't  go  all  alone  and  be  play-haunted  by  herself  fifteen 
years  ago!  She  ran  back  suddenly  to  the  house  and  into  the 
old  library  where  the  secretary  was  still  in  the  thick  of 
accounts.  "They  are  not  arriving  till  to-morrow,"  she 
said,  "and  I  am  going  to  walk  in  the  hills.  Escort  me, 
please.  There  are  dogs."  Obediently  Phillos  put  his  lists 
to  one  side  and  got  up.  They  went  through  the  garden 
and  out  into  the  hills.  She  found  she  remembered  the  paths 
wonderfully  well.  She  was  not  frightened  now. 

Phillos  followed  a  couple  of  paces  behind,  as  was  proper. 
Suddenly  she  wondered  if  it  was  bad  for  his  knee,  and 
turned  sharply  to  look,  at  a  crossways  between  hill  pasture 
and  olives.  He  did  not  seem  to  be  walking  lame,  and  he 

234 


Naomi  Mitchison 

had  his  hands  full  of  flowers,  the  dry,  long-stemmed  sum- 
mery things  from  the  sides  of  the  paths  and  cracks  in  the 
walls,  coloured  daisies  and  thin  red  and  purple  spikes. 
As  she  looked  at  them,  his  fingers  closed  on  them  with 
whitening  knuckles.  She  smiled:  "We'll  go  down  through 
the  fields  here;  there  used  to  be  a  stream.  You'll  find 


more." 


It  was  a  beautiful  pasture,  with  oaks  and  a  few  great 
rocks,  not  yet  cropped  dry.  Half-way  down  she  stopped  in 
a  patch  of  shade  under  one  of  the  trees  and  lay  down  on 
the  grass.  Her  hands  fingered  about  among  the  warm 
grass  blades,  just  as  they  had  done  fifteen  years  ago.  The 
smell  of  wild  dust  and  leaves  was  the  same.  Phillos  stood 
in  the  edge  of  the  shade,  rubbing  the  bunch  of  pretty 
colours  against  his  face..  She  beckoned  him  to  come  farther 
under  the  tree  and  sit  down.  He  stretched  out  his  knee  a 
little  stiffly  among  the  grasses;  she  felt  suddenly  rather 
guilty  and  spoke  friendlily  to  him  about  the  country,  and 
poked  a  cricket  to  jump  towards  his  hand.  He  rolled  over 
on  to  his  face,  his  head  turned  away  from  her,  and  lay 
breathing  in  the  summer  out  of  the  hillside.  After  a  time 
she  became  aware,  more  by  his  silence  than  by  any  noise, 
that  he  was  crying.  He  had  probably  strained  the  knee 
after  all.  She  wondered  how  it  had  been  damaged.  The 
idiocy  of  some  masters,  spoiling  a  valuable  possession, 
changing  the  thing  from  useful  to  less  useful,  the  man  from 
friend  to  enemy!  Even  women  were  sometimes  both  fools 
and  cruel  with  their  slaves,  but  at  least  they  didn't,  on  the 
whole,  do  things  to  them  when  they  were  drunk! 

She  reached  over  and  patted  his  head,  which  twitched 
and  withdrew  itself  like  a  snail's  eye.  "My  poor  Phillos!" 
she  said,  "is  it  hurting  so  much?"  A  kind  of  negative 
movement  appeared  in  the  body.  "Was  it  the  bailiff 
then?"  she  asked.  "You  shouldn't  take  any  notice  of  him. 
He's  an  uneducated  man,  honest,  rough.  He  doesn't 
understand  you're  a  person,  at  all."  Phillos  answered  with 

235 


The  Poor  Relation  and  the  Secretary 

something  quite  inaudible,  but  that  had  the  effect  of  a 
child's  unhappiness.  She  moved  nearer  and  put  her  hand 
on  his  head.  For  a  moment  it  quivered,  too;  then  lay 
passive  under  her  fingers  like  a  tame  beast.  "Poor  thing!" 
she  said,  rubbing  into  the  base  of  the  hair  and  then  down 
onto  the  forehead,  a  new  surface,  warmer  and  softer.  It 
amused  her  to  go  on.  Suddenly  she  remembered  coming 
here  before  with  a  puppy  the  children  had,  and  stroking  it 
as  it  lay  on  the  grass,  panting  after  play;  that  was  the 
touch  that  had  come  back  into  her  fingers.  They  felt  on, 
checking  at  a  line  of  eyebrow,  and  stroked  it  to  the  corner 
of  the  eye;  the  skin  stayed  curiously  still — she  thought  he 
must  be  holding  his  breath.  Then  at  the  corner  of  the  eye 
they  came  on  something  fresh,  the  wet  of  tears,  checking 
the  finger  tips  with  something  new  and  unlike  the  puppy 
that  had  grown  up  into  a  big  hound  and  died  years  and 
years  ago.  Something  human. 

"What  is  it?"  she  said,  "has  someone  been  unkind  to 
you?  Tell  me,  Phillos."  And  again:  "You'd  better  tell  me. 
Probably  I  can  put  it  right."  He  was  one  of  her  cousin's 
most  valuable  slaves;  she  mustn't  let  him  be  damaged. 
A  hand  came  up  over  the  face  and  covered  hers,  pulling 
at  it  a  little.  For  a  moment  she  almost  lost  her  balance, 
leaning  over,  but  then  recovered  it.  She  felt  his  lips  against 
the  inside  of  her  fingers:  very  odd,  a  man's  lips,  scarcely 
kissing,  just  touching  in  some  very  pathetic  way,  as  the 
dog  had  dropped  his  muzzle  into  one's  hand  fifteen  years 
ago.  It  was  more  dignified  to  let  it  be,  not  to  withdraw  it 
hurriedly.  An  uncomfortable  position,  all  the  same.  The 
tension  on  her  arm  spread  from  wrist  to  shoulder.  "Now, 
Phillos,"  she  said,  "that'll  do.  Sit  up  and  tell  me  what 
you're  crying  about." 

He  obeyed  almost  at  once,  let  go  her  hand  and  sat 
up.  He  must  have  lain  with  the  flowers  under  his  chin, 
for  there  were  squashed  petals  and  leaves  on  his  neck 
still.  "I'm  sorry,  Miss  Claudia,"  he  said,  "but  I  don't 

236 


Naomi  Mitchison 

often  have  time  off  in  the  country.  It  gets  one  some- 
how." 

"Sure  it's  not  your  knee?"  she  said.  He  shook  his  head, 
even  smiling.  "Or  the  bailiff?" 

"No,  no!  At  least,  hardly.  But  I  only  save  up  so 
slowly." 

"Save  up — ?  To  buy  your  freedom?"  He  nodded. 
"  What  would  you  do  if  you  were  free  ? " 

It  seemed  a  difficult  question  to  answer.  At  last  he  said: 
"I'd  stop  being  so  lonely." 

"But  are  you?"  she  asked,  surprised.  "In  a  big  house- 
hold like  this?  Surely  you've  got  plenty  of  friends?" 

"No,"  he  said. 

And  she  considered  that,  after  all,  he  hadn't  much  in 
common  with  most  of  them — always  looked  out  of  it  at 
the  slaves'  festival,  the  Saturnalia,  when  there  were  games 
and  little  presents,  and  she  went  round,  encouraging  them 
to  laugh  and  sing  and  do  things  all  together  and  be  jolly. 
She  had  found  him  reading  a  book  once  that  day,  in  a 
corner  of  the  big  library,  hunched  up  between  two  chests 
of  book  rolls;  she  remembered  how  she  had  packed  him 
out,  cheerfully  but  firmly,  and  partnered  him  with  one  of 
the  Lady  Rufa's  maids  for  a  singing  game. 

"What  would  you  do?"  she  repeated. 

He  said:  "You'll  think  it  silly,  Miss  Claudia."  Then: 
"Well,  I've  got  one  friend,  a  Greek  like  me.  He  keeps  a 
book  shop  by  the  new  baths.  You  know  it,  perhaps. 
Meno's.  He  told  me  if  I  ever  got  free  he'd  give  me  a 
regular  job  there,  copying  or  dictating  or  selling.  There 
would  be  several  of  us  working  at  it  together.  I'd  like  that. 
And  perhaps  some  day  to  see  Greece." 

"Yes,"  she  said,  "it  seems  very  sensible.  Not  terribly 
exciting  perhaps.  I'm  sorry  you  feel  so  lonely,  Phillos. 
We  must  see  what  can  be  done  about  it." 

"Oh,  don't  bother,  Miss  Claudia,"  he  said,  "mostly  I 
haven't  time  to  bother  myself.  It  was  being  out  here.  It's 

237 


The  Poor  Relation  and  the  Secretary 

very  beautiful  country.  Is  this  really  your  home,  Miss 
Claudia?  It  must  be  fine  for  you,  coming  back,  and  then 
to-morrow  the  others  will  come,  too,  and  you'll  be  all 
together.  You  ladies  will  come  out  here,  I  suppose,  to  this 
field,  and  laugh  and  talk  and  remember  times  you've 
shared." 

"I  doubt  it,"  said  Claudia,  dryly,  and  laughed  a  little. 
"No.  YouVe  got  it  wrong,  Phillos.  The  others  have  got 
now:  the  present,  all  bright  and  sparkling  and  jolly.  And 
this  hill,  this  stupid  hill  is  only  then:  the  dull,  unimportant 
past.  So  I'm  alone  on  it." 

"Are  you?"  he  said,  looking  directly  at  her,  for  almost 
the  first  time,  "but  you're  never  lonely,  Miss  Claudia?" 

She  prepared  to  smile  at  this  ridiculousness,  but  the 
smell  of  turf  came  up  at  her,  making  her  act  blindly  and 
childishly.  "You  stupid!"  she  said,  and  beat  on  it  with 
her  fists.  "Why  did  you  think  I  made  you  come  with 
me?" 

He  stared  at  her  for  nearly  a  minute,  then  dropped  his 
eyes  and  began  picking  out  the  least  squashed  flowers. 
She  watched  his  hands  doing  it  and  tried  to  forget  what 
she  had  said.  She  saw  them  making  a  wreath,  pretty  and 
mixed  and  funny,  a  child's  crown.  He  offered  it  uncer- 
tainly, but  she  bent  her  head  for  it,  in  some  way  glad  to 
hide  her  face.  "Now,"  she  ordered,  "you  get  me  some." 
He  jumped  up  and  went  quickly  from  patch  to  patch, 
moving  in  the  sun  mostly;  she  had  never  seen  him  moving 
so  easily  before.  She  put  her  hands  up  over  her  own 
cheeks;  they  were  hot;  she  felt  the  corners  of  her  mouth 
twitching  and  smiling  and  tried  to  compose  herself  to 
gravity — what  was  there  to  smile  at?  Her  cousins'  slave 
secretary  doing  what  he  was  told  ?  Because  he  was  a  slave, 
not  because  she  was  a  woman.  Obviously  he  was  not  re- 
garding her  in  that  light.  Stupid  to  suppose  he  might  be. 
And  dangerous  impudence  if  he  did!  But  what  would  be 
happening  if  she  had  a  face  and  figure  like  Norbana's? — 

238 


Naomi  Mitchison 

well,  she  wouldn't  be  sitting  on  a  dry  bank  miles  from 
Rome  staring  at  a  slave  coming  back  with  flowers — com- 
mon, wild  flowers — and  thinking  he  needed  a  new  pair  of 
sandals! 

He  stood  in  front  of  her  and  dropped  them  into  her  lap; 
she  began  naming  them  to  him — he  did  not  know  their 
country  names.  She  stopped  thinking  about  Norbana  and 
what  it  would  be  like,  and  fell  to  threading  the  flowers 
together  on  a  long  grass.  Her  wreath  was  much  better 
than  his,  thick  and  close  and  competently  made  so  that  it 
didn't  come  to  pieces  and  hang  over  the  left  ear  as  the  one 
on  her  own  head  was  doing  already!  He  knelt  apologet- 
ically, to  put  it  right,  touching  her  hair;  her  head  stayed 
tremulously  still,  determined  not  to  slant  itself  towards  a 
slave's  hands.  She  put  the  last  touches  to  her  own  wreath, 
admiring  it  as  it  dangled  from  her  hand.  He  admired  it, 
too,  but  from  a  distance,  obviously  refusing  t6  consider  in 
his  own  mind  what  she  meant  to  do  with  it.  "Here, 
Phillos!"  she  said,  "take  it,  you  stupid  creature!"  Even 
so,  he  did  not  dare  duck  his  head  for  her  to  crown  him,  but 
took  it  in  his  hands  and  put  it  on  himself.  She  jumped  up. 
"You've  got  it  quite  crooked.  Now,  stand  still,  I'll  do  it." 
It  was  possible  to  retain  an  air  of  complete  mastery  still. 
She  put  it  straight. 

He  had  the  right  shaped  head  for  it,  as  she  had  known, 
squarish,  with  hair  that  stood  up  springily  under  the 
leaves.  The  shadow  of  it  seemed  to  brighten  his  eyes,  too. 
He  reached  out,  gently,  hesitatingly,  and  took  her  hand 
and  swung  it  for  a  moment  in  the  sweet  air  between  them. 
She  asked  him  what  books  his  friend  published — poetry, 
history,  astronomy,  cookery  books  ?  He  began  very  eagerly 
to  tell  her,  and  about  the  excitement  of  a  new  book,  the 
polished  tops  of  the  rolls,  the  ruled  lines  in  scarlet,  bright 
and  shiny,  the  thrill  of  who  would  come  the  first  day  to 
buy,  reading  it  oneself  and  getting  the  points  clear  in  one's 
head  for  customers  who  asked !  And  then  the  copying  of 

239 


The  Poor  Relation  and  the  Secretary 

books,  poetry  especially,  getting  the  feel  of  a  new  metre — 
some  phrase  that  jumped  out  at  one  like  a  jewel!  And 
fresh  editions  of  the  old:  philosophy,  mathematics.  They 
talked  about  it  all  the  way  back,  walking  side  by  side  along 
the  hill  paths  this  time. 

The  cousins  came  and  everything  went  according  to 
plan.  And  then,  towards  the  end  of  their  stay,  something 
really  awkward  and  annoying  happened.  Lady  Norbana 
lost  her  sapphire  brooch.  The  whole  of  the  villa  was 
turned  upside  down.  Claudia  worried  about  it  dreadfully, 
feeling  that  its  loss  was  a  reflection  on  her  own  competence. 
As,  indeed,  it  was  in  some  odd  way  made  out  to  be.  She 
began  to  suspect  any  and  all  the  slaves,  had  them  up, 
questioned  them,  bullied  them,  searched  their  bedding. 
All  no  good.  And  then  suddenly  she  found  it  herself  in  the 
box  edging  of  a  flower  bed. 

She  picked  it  up  and  looked  at  it  angrily  for  having 
given  her  so  much  trouble.  It  stared  back  out  of  her  palm 
in  the  odd,  calm  way  that  round  polished  stones  have;  it 
had  been  there  all  the  time,  waiting,  in  no  hurry.  She 
liked  handling  jewels;  it  did  not  happen  often.  She  tried 
it  on  herself,  pinning  it  first  on  the  shoulder  of  her  mantle, 
then  at  the  cross-over  of  her  dress.  Lady  Norbana,  her 
cousin,  was  already  ceasing  to  fuss  about  it.  A  jeweller 
had  come  that  morning  from  town,  sent  by  her  betrothed 
with  an  assortment  of  even  more  beautiful  brooches  for 
her  to  choose  from;  the  only  difficulty  lay  in  the  decision! 
Would  she,  after  all,  be  so  very  glad  to  get  this  sapphire 
back? 

What  was  it  worth,  Claudia  wondered?  The  price  of  one 
of  the  rose  terraces.  The  price  of  a  painted  summer-house. 
The  price  of  a  skilled  slave.  Some  people  would  give  their 
ears  for  it.  She  jumped  it  up  and  down  in  the  palm  of  her 
hand.  The  price  of  a  skilled  slave.  Supposing  a  slave  had 
found  it  and  not  told,  but  sold  it  in  Rome — at  one  of  the 
little  jewellers  in  the  Suburra.  Who  would  have  been  any 

240 


Naomi  Mitchison 

the  worse?  Not  really  Lady  Norbana  with  her  new  one 
which  was  going  to  be  the  envy  of  all  her  friends!  Perhaps 
the  slave  himself  would  be  hurt:  by  the  doing  of  something 
wrong  and  concealment  of  it.  Wrong?  Against  the  laws. 
The  laws  are  there  to  defend  property,  to  defend  the 
owners,  the  innocent  owners,  the  stupid  owners,  the  care- 
less owners  who  would  just  as  soon  have  something  else 
if  they  could  get  it!  Supposing  the  slave  who  had  found  it 
and  sold  it  used  the  money,  not  slavishly  for  mean  little 
pleasures  and  gratifications  of  the  body,  but  to  buy  his 
freedom  and  be  a  free  man  among  his  friends?  Yes. 
Claudia  pinned  her  cousin's  sapphire  brooch  into  her  own 
dress  under  the  belt,  and  went  back  to  the  house.  Then 
she  locked  it  in  a  box  with  her  few  valuable  possessions 
and  managed  to  forget  about  it  quite  successfully  almost 
all  the  time.  Norbana's  taste  had  changed.  She  was  tired 
of  large,  plain  stones.  She  preferred  them  engraved;  there 
was  an  amethyst  with  a  winged  cupid  dancing  and  carrying 
torches — when  you  held  it  up  to  the  light  it  seemed  to 
waver  with  a  translucent  life  and  gaiety  of  its  own:  a  piece 
of  Alexandrian  work.  That  was  the  final  choice. 

When  the  cousins  were  all  there,  Claudia  had  very  little 
time  to  herself.  There  was  a  constant  bustle  and  laughter 
and  things  to  be  arranged,  or  cleared  up  after  they  had 
been  disarranged.  On  a  quiet  day,  they  wanted  her  usually 
to  read  aloud  to  them  while  they  embroidered,  all  sitting 
under  a  holm  oak  by  one  of  the  fountains.  She  had  a  good 
voice  with  plenty  of  expression;  she  brought  out  the  points. 
And  there  were  so  many  books  coming  out  now!  Lady 
Quintilia  had  a  taste  for  philosophy  and  the  vaguer  mathe- 
matics, but  the  others  preferred  poetry  or  poetic  romances. 

Phillos  was  busy,  too.  Between  doing  accounts  and 
writing  business  letters  he  had  to  copy  out  their  grand- 
father's memoirs  of  campaigning  and  politics  in  the  early 
years  of  the  Empire,  occasionally  expanding  or  annotating 
when  they  seemed  too  obscure.  He  was  getting  on  with  it 

241 


The  Poor  Relation  and  the  Secretary 

steadily,  but  there  was  plenty  left.  Every  evening  he  had 
to  bring  out  what  he  had  copied  that  day  to  Lady  Quin- 
tilia  and  read  it  aloud  to  her.  Usually  Claudia  was  there, 
too,  and  the  others  pretended  to  be  interested  sufficiently 
to  come  in  from  time  to  time  and  comment  wittily.  Oc- 
casionally Quintilia  made  corrections  in  the  manuscript, 
which  had  then  to  be  recopied.  Claudia  gave  Phillos  most 
of  his  orders,  and  there  might  be  a  few  minutes'  conversa- 
tion, all  very  much  as  it  should  be,  diffident  from  him  and 
assured  from  her.  He  did  not  look  at  her  directly  during 
their  interviews,  but  kept  his  eyes  down  on  his  tablets; 
and  she  would  have  been  ashamed  to  do  her  hair  more 
carefully  or  wear  her  new  fringed  mantle  just  to  talk  to  the 
secretary!  They  were  going  back  to  Rome  in  a  week. 

Sometimes  she  regretted  that  she  had  seen  no  more  of 
the  hills.  But  it  had  not  seemed  possible.  There  had  been 
occasional  tours  of  the  estate  on  mule-back,  mostly  by 
Lady  Quintilia  and  herself,  and  one  or  two  excursions  to 
the  lake  by  the  whole  party.  But  after  all,  why  be  un- 
comfortable? Hill  paths  are  rough  and  dusty  and  tear 
one's  best  dress,  and  the  garden  was  always  expectant  and 
delicious — the  damask  roses  really  the  greatest  success! — 
and  one  could  keep  in  the  shade,  and  send  back  to  the 
house  for  anything  one  had  forgotten,  and  feed  the  gold 
fish  and  tame  swans,  and  everything  was  just  so,  and  one 
felt  deep  in  oneself  that  one  had  power  over  it.  The  garden 
with  the  fountains  was  man-made  and  docile  and  friendly 
like  a  beautiful  riding-horse,  but  the  hills  were  wild  and 
separate  from  man,  enemies,  dark  wild  bulls  with  tossing 
crests  like  horns!  Why  try  to  get  companionship  out  of 
such  alien  forms? 

A  few  days  after  they  got  back,  when  the  household  was 
all  settled  in  again,  Claudia  unlocked  her  box,  took  out  the 
brooch,  and  went  with  it  to  the  little  shop  in  the  Suburra 
which  she  had  decided  on.  She  wore  a  solid  brown  cloak 
and  walked  quickly;  no  one  spoke  to  her.  While  the  jewel- 

242 


Naomi  Mitchison 

ler  handled  and  weighed  the  brooch,  she  sat  on  a  stool 
beside  his  table,  looking  with  quite  a  real  interest  at  the 
specimens  of  his  craftsmanship.  She  knew  from  Norbana 
about  what  the  jewel  was  worth,  but  did  not  suppose  she 
would  get  that.  The  first  offer,  of  course,  was  ridiculously 
low,  but  she  had  always  found  bargaining  quite  pleasant 
and  easy  when  it  was  a  business  matter:  she  had  been  the 
one  to  settle  most  of  the  estate  business  three  years  ago 
when  Lady  Quintilia  had  been  so  upset  over  the  Troubles. 
The  thing  settled  itself  between  her  and  the  jeweller  to 
their  mutual  satisfaction.  She  counted  the  money  and  put 
it  into  the  purse  she  had  brought  with  her. 

On  the  way  back  she  suppressed  firmly  all  kinds  of  un- 
pleasant images.  The  brooch  recognised:  the  jeweller 
questioned:  herself  described.  Nonsense.  If  she  denied  it 
completely — and  they  would  hardly  even  have  the  face  to 
accuse  her! — it  was  her  word  against  the  jeweller's.  There 
was  nothing  to  be  anxious  about.  The  difficult  part  was 
over. 

She  sent  for  Phillos  and  gave  him  instructions  about 
some  letters  he  was  to  write.  Then  she  said:  "You  still 
want  to  go  and  shop-keep  with  your  book-seller  friends?" 

"Yes,  Miss  Claudia,"  he  said,  "but  there's  not  much 
chance  of  it  yet." 

"How  much  have  you  saved  so  far?" 

He  told  her,  rather  dully;  it  was  all  in  the  remote  future 
and  he  was  getting  older  every  day;  and  they  were  back 
in  Rome  where  he  couldn't  even  look  out  over  his  desk  at 
sunlight  on  blue  daisies.  "Another  six  or  seven  years,  if 
I'm  lucky." 

"I  think  we  can  do  better  than  that,"  she  said,  and  slid 
the  money  out  of  her  purse  on  to  the  table. 

He  stared  at  it  and  then  at  her,  straight  into  her  face 
this  time.  "Do  you  mean — you'll  lend  it  to  me,  Miss 
Claudia?" 

"No,"  she  said,  "it  would  take  you  too  long  to  pay  me 

243 


The  Poor  Relation  and  the  Secretary 

back.  I'm  giving  it  to  you."  He  did  not  answer  at  all,  only 
his  eyes  went  back  to  the  money  and  stared  and  stared; 
his  hands  began  to  shake  and  then  his  body;  he  shut  his 
eyes.  "Don't  be  stupid!"  she  said  sharply,  "it  won't  be  as 
nice  as  you  think,  being  free!" 

"But  why  are  you  doing  this,"  he  said,  "why,  why? 
What  do  you  get  for  it?" 

"It's  only  some  money  that — came  to  me — lately,"  she 
said,  "a  windfall.  I  don't  need  it.  I  gathered  that  you 
did." 

Then  he  slid  suddenly  down  to  his  knees  and  took  her 
hands  and  began  kissing  them.  She  disentangled  one  and 
laid  it  on  his  head;  it  was  odd  how  she  remembered  the  feel 
of  his  hair.  This  way,  he  could  not  look  up  suddenly  and 
see  her  face.  She  could  let  it  wear  any  expression  it  chose. 
She  could  let  her  other  hand  soak  for  a  minute  in  these 
kisses,  which  were,  rightly  and  properly,  nothing  but 
gratitude.  Gratitude.  A  pretty  emotion  as  between  lady 
and  slave.  Kisses  not  of  the  lips  and  senses  but  of  the 
whole  mind  and  body.  Looking  down  at  him,  it  seemed  to 
her  that  they  were  being  shaken  out  from  under  his 
shoulders,  from  the  heart  itself.  And  all  for  Norbana's 
brooch!  Her  cousin's  brooch  and  her  own  presence  of 
mind:  no  one  any  the  worse.  Presence  of  mind  and  absence 
of  fear:  a  slave's  emotion.  Phillos  would  have  been  too 
frightened  to  do  it  himself — even  though  he  might  think 
he  was  a  Stoic! 

The  cousins  would  need  to  get  a  new  secretary  now.  If 
she  had  not  acted  as  she  had,  Phillos  would  still  be  their 
secretary  for  years  and  years,  never  go  off  to  his  book-shop 
and  his  Greek  friends.  She  would  still  be  seeing  him  every 
day,  having  that  few  minutes'  talk.  Not  that  it  mattered. 
She  would  train  the  new  secretary  to  take  her  orders  just  as 
quickly.  Perhaps  it  would  be  better  if  they  got  a  Latin  of 
some  kind,  rather  than  a  Greek.  Better  with  the  bailiff 
and  the  estate  people.  It  would  be  the  new  secretary  who 

244 


Naomi  Mitchison 

would  stay  for  years  and  years:  till  she  was  old  herself. 
Well,  well,  why  think  about  unpleasant  subjects? 

"That'll  do,  Phillos!"  she  said  cheerfully.  Her  right 
hand  pulled  itself  away  from  his  lips,  her  left  hand  from 
his  hair.  They  would  never  stay  like  that  again.  "Now," 
she  said,  "we'll  count  the  money.  You  must  go  to  Lady 
Quintilia  this  evening  and  tell  her  you  have  the  price.  I 
think  I  would  rather  you  did  not  say  it  had  anything  to  do 
with  me,  Phillos.  We'll  get  the  Quaestor  in  to-morrow  and 
free  you.  The  next  time  I'm  buying  a  book  I  shall  cer- 
tainly come  to  your  book-shop.  And  I  hope  you  will  make 
a  great  success  of  it ! " 


245 


MARfA  CONCEPCI(3N 

by 

Katherine  Jlnne  Porter 


KATHERINE  ANNE  PORTER  was  born  in  Texas  in  1894. 
In  the  year  after  the  publication  of  her  volume  of  short  stories, 
Flowering  Judas  (jpjo),  she  received  a  Guggenheim  Fellow- 
ship, and  has  since  lived  the  greater  part  of  the  time  in  Paris. 
The  new  collection  under  the  same  title  contains  four  new 
stories  in  addition  to  those  printed  in  the  original  limited 
edition. 


MARIA  CONCEPCION 

MARIA  CONCEPCION  walked  carefully,  keeping 
to  the  middle  of  the  white  dusty  road,  where 
the  maguey  thorns  and  the  treacherous  curved 
spines  of  organ  cactus  had  not  gathered  so  profusely.  She 
would  have  enjoyed  resting  for  a  moment  in  the  dark 
shade  by  the  roadside,  but  she  had  no  time  to  waste  draw- 
ing cactus  needles  from  her  feet.  Juan  and  his  chief  would 
be  waiting  for  their  food  in  the  damp  trenches  of  the 
buried  city. 

She  carried  about  a  dozen  living  fowls  slung  over  her 
right  shoulder,  their  feet  fastened  together.  Half  of  them 
fell  upon  the  flat  of  her  back,  the  balance  dangled  uneasily 
over  her  breast.  They  wriggled  their  benumbed  and 
swollen  legs  against  her  neck,  they  twisted  their  stupefied 
eyes  and  peered  into  her  face  inquiringly.  She  did  not  see 
them  or  think  of  them.  Her  left  arm  was  tired  with  the 
weight  of  the  food  basket,  and  she  was  hungry  after  her 
long  morning's  work. 

Her  straight  back  outlined  itself  strongly  under  her 
clean  bright  blue  cotton  rebozo.  Instinctive  serenity 
softened  her  black  eyes,  shaped  like  almonds,  set  far 
apart,  and  tilted  a  bit  endwise.  She  walked  with  the  free, 
natural,  guarded  ease  of  the  primitive  woman  carrying 
an  unborn  child.  The  shape  of  her  body  was  easy,  the 
swelling  life  was  not  a  distortion,  but  the  right  inevitable 
proportions  of  a  woman.  She  was  entirely  contented. 
Her  husband  was  at  work  and  she  was  on  her  way  to 
market  to  sell  her  fowls. 

Her  small  house  sat  half-way  up  a  shallow  hill,  under 

From  Flowering  Judas  and  Other  Stories  by  Katherine  Anne  Porter.  Reprinted 
by  permission  of  Harcourt,  Brace  and  Company,  Inc. 

249 


Maria  Concepcion 

a  clump  of  pepper-trees,  a  wall  of  organ  cactus  enclos- 
ing it  on  the  side  nearest  to  the  road.  Now  she  came 
down  into  the  valley,  divided  by  the  narrow  spring, 
and  crossed  a  bridge  of  loose  stones  near  the  hut  where 
Maria  Rosa  the  beekeeper  lived  with  her  old  godmother, 
Lupe  the  medicine  woman.  Maria  Concepcion  had  no 
faith  in  the  charred  owl  bones,  the  singed  rabbit  fur,  the 
cat  entrails,  the  messes  and  ointments  sold  by  Lupe  to 
the  ailing  of  the  village.  She  was  a  good  Christian,  and 
drank  simple  herb  teas  for  headache  and  stomachache, 
or  bought  her  remedies  bottled,  with  printed  directions 
that  she  could  not  read,  at  the  drugstore  near  the  city 
market,  where  she  went  almost  daily.  But  she  often 
bought  a  jar  of  honey  from  young  Maria  Rosa,  a  pretty, 
shy  child  only  fifteen  years  old. 

Maria  Concepcion  and  her  husband,  Juan  Villegas, 
were  each  a  little  past  their  eighteenth  year.  She  had  a 
good  reputation  with  the  neighbors  as  an  energetic  re- 
ligious woman  who  could  drive  a  bargain  to  the  end. 
It  was  commonly  known  that  if  she  wished  to  buy  a  new 
rebozo  for  herself  or  a  shirt  for  Juan,  she  could  bring  out  a 
sack  of  hard  silver  coins  for  the  purpose. 

She  had  paid  for  the  license,  nearly  a  year  ago,  the 
potent  bit  of  stamped  paper  which  permits  people  to 
be  married  in  the  church.  She  had  given  money  to  the 
priest  before  she  and  Juan  walked  together  up  to  the 
altar  the  Monday  after  Holy  Week.  It  had  been  the 
adventure  of  the  villagers  to  go,  three  Sundays  one  after 
another,  to  hear  the  banns  called  by  the  priest  for  Juan 
de  Dios  Villegas  and  Maria  Concepcion  Manriquez,  who 
were  actually  getting  married  in  the  church,  instead  of 
behind  it,  which  was  the  usual  custom,  less  expensive, 
and  as  binding  as  any  other  ceremony.  But  Maria  Con- 
cepcion was  always  as  proud  as  if  she  owned  a  hacienda. 

She  paused  on  the  bridge  and  dabbled  her  feet  in  the 
water,  her  eyes  resting  themselves  from  the  sun-rays 

250 


Katherine  Anne  Porter 

in  a  fixed  gaze  to  the  far-off  mountains,  deeply  blue 
under  their  hanging  drift  of  clouds.  It  came  to  her  that 
she  would  like  a  fresh  crust  of  honey.  The  delicious 
aroma  of  bees,  their  slow  thrilling  hum,  awakened  a 
pleasant  desire  for  a  flake  of  sweetness  in  her  mouth. 

"If  I  do  not  eat  it  now,  I  shall  mark  my  child,"  she 
thought,  peering  through  the  crevices  in  the  thick  hedge 
of  cactus  that  sheered  up  nakedly,  like  bared  knife  blades 
set  protectingly  around  the  small  clearing.  The  place 
was  so  silent  she  doubted  if  Maria  Rosa  and  Lupe  were 
at  home. 

The  leaning  jacal  of  dried  rush- withes  and  corn  sheaves, 
bound  to  tall  saplings  thrust  into  the  earth,  roofed  with 
yellowed  maguey  leaves  flattened  and  overlapping  like 
shingles,  hunched  drowsy  and  fragrant  in  the  warmth  of 
noonday.  The  hives,  similarly  made,  were  scattered 
towards  the  back  of  the  clearing,  like  small  mounds  of 
clean  vegetable  refuse.  Over  each  mound  there  hung  a 
dusty  golden  shimmer  of  bees. 

A  light  gay  scream  of  laughter  rose  from  behind  the 
hut;  a  man's  short  laugh  joined  in.  "Ah,  hahahaha!" 
went  the  voices  together  high  and  low,  like  a  song. 

"So  Maria  Rosa  has  a  man!"  Maria  Concepcion 
stopped  short,  smiling,  shifted  her  burden  slightly,  and 
bent  forward  shading  her  eyes  to  see  more  clearly  through 
the  spaces  of  the  hedge. 

Maria  Rosa  ran,  dodging  between  beehives,  parting 
two  stunted  jasmine  bushes  as  she  came,  lifting  her  knees 
in  swift  leaps,  looking  over  her  shoulder  and  laughing  in 
a  quivering,  excited  way.  A  heavy  jar,  swung  to  her 
wrist  by  the  handle,  knocked  against  her  thighs  as  she 
ran.  Her  toes  pushed  up  sudden  spurts  of  dust,  her  half- 
raveled  braids  showered  around  her  shoulders  in  long 
crinkled  wisps. 

Juan  Villegas  ran  after  her,  also  laughing  strangely, 
his  teeth  set,  both  rows  gleaming  behind  the  small  soft 

251 


Maria  Concepcion 

black  beard  growing  sparsely  on  his  lips,  his  chin,  leaving 
his  brown  cheeks  girl-smooth.  When  he  seized  her,  he 
clenched  so  hard  her  chemise  gave  way  and  ripped  from 
her  shoulder.  She  stopped  laughing  at  this,  pushed  him 
away  and  stood  silent,  trying  to  pull  up  the  torn  sleeve 
with  one  hand.  Her  pointed  chin  and  dark  red  mouth 
moved  in  an  uncertain  way,  as  if  she  wished  to  laugh 
again;  her  long  black  lashes  flickered  with  the  quick- 
moving  lights  in  her  hidden  eyes. 

Maria  Concepcion  did  not  stir  nor  breathe  for  some 
seconds.  Her  forehead  was  cold,  and  yet  boiling  water 
seemed  to  be  pouring  slowly  along  her  spine.  An  un- 
accountable pain  was  in  her  knees,  as  if  they  were  broken. 
She  was  afraid  Juan  and  Maria  Rosa  would  feel  her  eyes 
fixed  upon  them  and  would  find  her  there,  unable  to  move, 
spying  upon  them.  But  they  did  not  pass  beyond  the 
enclosure,  nor  even  glance  towards  the  gap  in  the  wall 
opening  upon  the  road. 

Juan  lifted  one  of  Maria  Rosa's  loosened  braids  and 
slapped  her  neck  with  it  playfully.  She  smiled  softly, 
consentingly.  Together  they  moved  back  through  the 
hives  of  honey-comb.  Maria  Rosa  balanced  her  jar  on 
one  hip  and  swung  her  long  full  petticoats  with  every 
step.  Juan  flourished  his  wide  hat  back  and  forth,  walk- 
ing proudly  as  a  game-cock. 

Maria  Concepcion  came  out  of  the  heavy  cloud  which 
enwrapped  her  head  and  bound  her  throat,  and  found 
herself  walking  onward,  keeping  the  road  without  know- 
ing it,  feeling  her  way  delicately,  her  ears  strumming  as 
if  all  Maria  Rosa's  bees  had  hived  in  them.  Her  careful 
sense  of  duty  kept  her  moving  toward  the  buried  city 
where  Juan's  chief,  the  American  archeologist,  was  taking 
his  midday  rest,  waiting  for  his  food. 

Juan  and  Maria  Rosa!  She  burned  all  over  now,  as  if 
a  layer  of  tiny  fig-cactus  bristles,  as  cruel  as  spun  glass, 
had  crawled  under  her  skin.  She  wished  to  sit  down 

252 


Katherine  Anne  Porter 

quietly  and  wait  for  her  death,  but  not  until  she  had 
cut  the  throats  of  her  man  and  that  girl  who  were  laugh- 
ing and  kissing  under  the  cornstalks.  Once  when  she 
was  a  young  girl  she  had  come  back  from  market  to  find 
her  jacal  burned  to  a  pile  of  ash  and  her  few  silver  coins 
gone.  A  dark  empty  feeling  had  filled  her;  she  kept  mov- 
ing about  the  place,  not  believing  her  eyes,  expecting 
it  all  to  take  shape  again  before  her.  But  it  was  gone, 
and  though  she  knew  an  enemy  had  done  it,  she  could 
not  find  out  who  it  was,  and  could  only  curse  and  threaten 
the  air.  Now  here  was  a  worse  thing,  but  she  knew  her 
enemy.  Maria  Rosa,  that  sinful  girl,  shameless!  She 
heard  herself  saying  a  harsh,  true  word  about  Maria  Rosa, 
saying  it  aloud  as  if  she  expected  someone  to  agree  with 
her:  "Yes,  she  is  a  whore!  She  has  no  right  to  live." 

At  this  moment  the  gray  untidy  head  of  Givens  ap- 
peared over  the  edges  of  the  newest  trench  he  had  caused 
to  be  dug  in  his  field  of  excavations.  The  long  deep  cre- 
vasses, in  which  a  man  might  stand  without  being  seen, 
lay  crisscrossed  like  orderly  gashes  of  a  giant  scalpel. 
Nearly  all  of  the  men  of  the  community  worked  for 
Givens,  helping  him  to  uncover  the  lost  city  of  their 
ancestors.  They  worked  all  the  year  through  and  pros- 
pered, digging  every  day  for  those  small  clay  heads  and 
bits  of  pottery  and  fragments  of  painted  walls  for  which 
there  was  no  good  use  on  earth,  being  all  broken  and 
encrusted  with  clay.  They  themselves  could  make  better 
ones,  perfectly  stout  and  new,  which  they  took  to  town 
and  peddled  to  foreigners  for  real  money.  But  the  un- 
earthly delight  of  the  chief  in  finding  these  wornout  things 
was  an  endless  puzzle.  He  would  fairly  roar  for  joy  at 
times,  waving  a  shattered  pot  or  a  human  skull  above  his 
head,  shouting  for  his  photographer  to  come  and  make  a 
picture  of  this! 

Now  he  emerged,  and  his  young  enthusiast's  eyes  wel- 
comed Maria  Concepcion  from  his  old-man  face,  covered 

2S3 


Maria  Concepcion 

with  hard  wrinkles  and  burned  to  the  color  of  red  earth. 
"I  hope  you've  brought  me  a  nice  fat  one."  He  selected  a 
fowl  from  the  bunch  dangling  nearest  him  as  Maria  Con- 
cepcion, wordless,  leaned  over  the  trench.  "Dress  it  for 
me,  there's  a  good  girl.  I'll  broil  it." 

Maria  Concepcion  took  the  fowl  by  the  head,  and 
silently,  swiftly  drew  her  knife  across  its  throat,  twisting 
the  head  off  with  the  casual  firmness  she  might  use  with 
the  top  of  a  beet. 

"Good  God,  woman,  you  do  have  nerve,"  said  Givens, 
watching  her.  "I  can't  do  that.  It  gives  me  the  creeps." 

"My  home  country  is  Guadalajara,"  explained  Maria 
Concepcion,  without  bravado,  as  she  picked  and  gutted 
the  fowl. 

She  stood  and  regarded  Givens  condescendingly,  that 
diverting  white  man  who  had  no  woman  of  his  own  to 
cook  for  him,  and  moreover  appeared  not  to  feel  any 
loss  of  dignity  in  preparing  his  own  food.  He  squatted 
now,  eyes  squinted,  nose  wrinkled  to  avoid  the  smoke, 
turning  the  roasting  fowl  busily  on  a  stick.  A  mysterious 
man,  undoubtedly  rich,  and  Juan's  chief,  therefore  to  be 
respected,  to  be  placated. 

"The  tortillas  are  fresh  and  hot,  seiior,"  she  murmured 
gently.  "With  your  permission  I  will  now  go  to  market." 

"Yes,  yes,  run  along;  bring  me  another  of  those  to- 
morrow." Givens  turned  his  head  to  look  at  her  again. 
Her  grand  manner  sometimes  reminded  him  of  royalty 
in  exile.  He  noticed  her  unnatural  paleness.  "The  sun  is 
too  hot,  eh?"  he  asked. 

"Yes,  sir.    Pardon  me,  but  Juan  will  be  here  soon?" 

"He  ought  to  be  here  now.  Leave  his  food.  The  others 
will  eat  it." 

She  moved  away;  the  blue  of  her  rebozo  became  a  danc- 
ing spot  in  the  heat  waves  that  rose  from  the  gray-red 
soil.  Givens  liked  his  Indians  best  when  he  could  feel  a 
fatherly  indulgence  for  their  primitive  childish  ways. 

254 


Katharine  Anne  Porter 

He  told  comic  stories  of  Juan's  escapades,  of  how  often 
he  had  saved  him,  in  the  past  five  years,  from  going  to 
jail,  and  even  from  being  shot,  for  his  varied  and  always 
unexpected  misdeeds. 

"I  am  never  a  minute  too  soon  to  get  him  out  of  one 
pickle  or  another,"  he  would  say.  "Well,  he's  a  good 
worker,  and  I  know  how  to  manage  him." 

After  Juan  was  married,  he  used  to  twit  him,  with 
exactly  the  right  shade  of  condescension,  on  his  many 
infidelities  to  Maria  Concepcion.  "She'll  catch  you  yet, 
and  God  help  you!"  he  was  fond  of  saying,  and  Juan 
would  laugh  with  immense  pleasure. 

It  did  not  occur  to  Maria  Concepcion  to  tell  Juan  she 
had  found  him  out.  During  the  day  her  anger  against 
him  died,  and  her  anger  against  Maria  Rosa  grew.  She 
kept  saying  to  herself,  "When  I  was  a  young  girl  like 
Maria  Rosa,  if  a  man  had  caught  hold  of  me  so,  I  would 
have  broken  my  jar  over  his  head."  She  forgot  completely 
that  she  had  not  resisted  even  so  much  as  Maria  Rosa,  on 
the  day  that  Juan  had  first  taken  hold  of  her.  Besides  she 
had  married  him  afterwards  in  the  church,  and  that  was  a 
very  different  thing. 

Juan  did  not  come  home  that  night,  but  went  away 
to  war  and  Maria  Rosa  went  with  him.  Juan  had  a  rifle 
at  his  shoulder  and  two  pistols  at  his  belt.  Maria  Rosa 
wore  a  rifle  also,  slung  on  her  back  along  with  the  blankets 
and  the  cooking  pots.  They  joined  the  nearest  detach- 
ment of  troops  in  the  field,  and  Maria  Rosa  marched 
ahead  with  the  battalion  of  experienced  women  of  war, 
which  went  over  the  crops  like  locusts,  gathering  provi- 
sions for  the  army.  She  cooked  with  them,  and  ate  with 
them  what  was  left  after  the  men  had  eaten.  After  battles 
she  went  out  on  the  field  with  the  others  to  salvage  clothing 
and  ammunition  and  guns  from  the  slain  before  they 
should  begin  to  swell  in  the  heat.  Sometimes  they  would 

255 


Maria  Concepcion 

encounter  the  women  from  the  other  army,  and  a  second 
battle  as  grim  as  the  first  would  take  place. 

There  was  no  particular  scandal  in  the  village.  People 
shrugged,  grinned.  It  was  far  better  that  they  were  gone. 
The  neighbors  went  around  saying  that  Maria  Rosa  was 
safer  in  the  army  than  she  would  be  in  the  same  village 
with  Maria  Concepcion. 

Maria  Concepcion  did  not  weep  when  Juan  left  her; 
and  when  the  baby  was  born,  and  died  within  four  days, 
she  did  not  weep.  "She  is  mere  stone,"  said  old  Lupe, 
who  went  over  and  offered  charms  to  preserve  the  baby. 

"May  you  rot  in  hell  with  your  charms,"  said  Maria 
Concepcion. 

If  she  had  not  gone  so  regularly  to  church,  lighting 
candles  before  the  saints,  kneeling  with  her  arms  spread 
in  the  form  of  a  cross  for  hours  at  a  time,  and  receiving 
holy  communion  every  month,  there  might  have  been 
talk  of  her  being  devil-possessed,  her  face  was  so  changed 
and  blind-looking.  But  this  was  impossible  when,  after 
all,  she  had  been  married  by  the  priest.  It  must  be,  they 
reasoned,  that  she  was  being  punished  for  her  pride. 
They  decided  that  this  was  the  true  cause  for  everything: 
she  was  altogether  too  proud.  So  they  pitied  her. 

During  the  year  that  Juan  and  Maria  Rosa  were  gone 
Maria  Concepcion  sold  her  fowls  and  looked  after  her 
garden  and  her  sack  of  hard  coins  grew.  Lupe  had  no 
talent  for  bees,  and  the  hives  did  not  prosper.  She  began 
to  blame  Maria  Rosa  for  running  away,  and  to  praise 
Maria  Concepcion  for  her  behavior.  She  used  to  see 
Maria  Concepcion  at  the  market  or  at  church,  and  she 
always  said  that  no  one  could  tell  by  looking  at  her  now 
that  she  was  a  woman  who  had  such  a  heavy  grief. 

"I  pray  God  everything  goes  well  with  Maria  Con- 
cepcion from  this  out,"  she  would  say,  "for  she  has  had 
her  share  of  trouble." 

When  some  idle  person  repeated  this  to  the  deserted 

256 


Katherine  Anne  Porter 

woman,  she  went  down  to  Lupe's  house  and  stood  within 
the  clearing  and  called  to  the  medicine  woman,  who  sat 
in  her  doorway  stirring  a  mess  of  her  infallible  cure  for 
sores:  "Keep  your  prayers  to  yourself,  Lupe,  or  offer  them 
for  others  who  need  them.  I  will  ask  God  for  what  I  want 
in  this  world." 

"And  will  you  get  it,  you  think,  Maria  Concepcion?" 
asked  Lupe,  tittering  cruelly  and  smelling  the  wooden 
mixing  spoon.  "Did  you  pray  for  what  you  have  now?" 

Afterward  everyone  noticed  that  Maria  Concepcion 
went  oftener  to  church,  and  even  seldomer  to  the  village 
to  talk  with  the  other  women  as  they  sat  along  the  curb, 
nursing  their  babies  and  eating  fruit,  at  the  end  of  the 
market-day. 

"She  is  wrong  to  take  us  for  enemies,"  said  old  Soledad, 
who  was  a  thinker  and  a  peace-maker.  "All  women  have 
these  troubles.  Well,  we  should  suffer  together." 

But  Maria  Concepcion  lived  alone.  She  was  gaunt,  as 
if  something  were  gnawing  her  away  inside,  her  eyes  were 
sunken,  and  she  would  not  speak  a  word' if  she  could  help 
it.  She  worked  harder  than  ever,  and  her  butchering  knife 
was  scarcely  ever  out  of  her  hand. 

Juan  and  Maria  Rosa,  disgusted  with  military  life,  came 
home  one  day  without  asking  permission  of  anyone. 
The  field  of  war  had  unrolled  itself,  a  long  scroll  of  vexa- 
tions, until  the  end  had  frayed  out  within  twenty  miles 
of  Juan's  village.  So  he  and  Maria  Rosa,  now  lean  as  a 
wolf,  burdened  with  a  child  daily  expected,  set  out  with 
no  farewells  to  the  regiment  and  walked  home. 

They  arrived  one  morning  about  daybreak.  Juan  was 
picked  up  on  sight  by  a  group  of  military  police  from 
the  small  barracks  on  the  edge  of  town,  and  taken  to 
prison,  where  the  officer  in  charge  told  him  with  impersonal 
cheerfulness  that  he  would  add  one  to  a  catch  of  ten 
waiting  to  be  shot  as  deserters  the  next  morning. 

257 


Maria  Concepcion 

Maria  Rosa,  screaming  and  falling  on  her  face  in  the 
road,  was  taken  under  the  armpits  by  two  guards  and 
helped  briskly  to  her  jacal,  now  sadly  run  down.  She 
was  received  with  professional  importance  by  Lupe,  who 
helped  the  baby  to  be  born  at  once. 

Limping  with  foot  soreness,  a  layer  of  dust  concealing 
his  fine  new  clothes  got  mysteriously  from  somewhere, 
Juan  appeared  before  the  captain  at  the  barracks.  The 
captain  recognized  him  as  head  digger  for  his  good  friend 
Givens,  and  dispatched  a  note  to  Givens  saying:  "I  am 
holding  the  person  of  Juan  Villegas  awaiting  your  fur- 
ther disposition." 

When  Givens  showed  up  Juan  was  delivered  to  him 
with  the  urgent  request  that  nothing  be  made  public 
about  so  humane  and  sensible  an  operation  on  the  part 
of  military  authority. 

Juan  walked  out  of  the  rather  stifling  atmosphere  of 
the  drumhead  court,  a  definite  air  of  swagger  about  him. 
His  hat,  of  unreasonable  dimensions  and  embroidered 
with  silver  thread,  hung  over  one  eyebrow,  secured  at 
the  back  by  a  cord  of  silver  dripping  with  bright  blue 
tassels.  His  shirt  was  of  a  checkerboard  pattern  in  green 
and  black,  his  white  cotton  trousers  were  bound  by  a 
belt  of  yellow  leather  tooled  in  red.  His  feet  were  bare, 
full  of  stone  bruises,  and  sadly  ragged  as  to  toenails.  He 
removed  his  cigarette  from  the  corner  of  his  full-lipped 
wide  mouth.  He  removed  the  splendid  hat.  His  black 
dusty  hair,  pressed  moistly  to  his  forehead,  sprang  up 
suddenly  in  a  cloudy  thatch  on  his  crown.  He  bowed 
to  the  officer,  who  appeared  to  be  gazing  at  a  vacuum. 
He  swung  his  arm  wide  in  a  free  circle  upsoaring  to- 
wards the  prison  window,  where  forlorn  heads  poked 
over  the  window  sill,  hot  eyes  following  after  the  lucky 
departing  one.  Two  or  three  of  the  heads  nodded,  and 
a  half  dozen  hands  were  flipped  at  him  in  an  effort  to 
imitate  his  own  casual  and  heady  manner. 

258 


Katherine  Anne  Porter 

Juan  kept  up  this  insufferable  pantomime  until  they 
rounded  the  first  clump  of  fig-cactus.  Then  he  seized 
Givens'  hand  and  burst  into  oratory.  "Blessed  be  the 
day  your  servant  Juan  Villegas  first  came  under  your 
eyes.  From  this  day  my  life  is  yours  without  condition, 
ten  thousand  thanks  with  all  my  heart!" 

"For  God's  sake  stop  playing  the  fool,"  said  Givens 
irritably.  "Some  day  I'm  going  to  be  five  minutes  too 
late." 

"Well,  it  is  nothing  much  to  be  shot,  my  chief — cer- 
tainly you  know  I  was  not  afraid — but  to  be  shot  in  a 
drove  of  deserters,  against  a  cold  wall,  just  in  the  mo- 
ment of  my  home-coming,  by  order  of  that  .  .  ." 

Glittering  epithets  tumbled  over  one  another  like  ex- 
plosions of  a  rocket.  All  the  scandalous  analogies  from 
the  animal  and  vegetable  worlds  were  applied  in  a  vivid, 
unique  and  personal  way  to  the  life,  loves,  and  family 
history  of  the  officer  who  had  just  set  him  free.  When 
he  had  quite  cursed  himself  dry,  and  his  nerves  were 
soothed,  he  added:  "With  your  permission,  my  chief!" 

"What  will  Maria  Concepcion  say  to  all  this?"  asked 
Givens.  "You  are  very  informal,  Juan,  for  a  man  who 
was  married  in  the  church." 

Juan  put  on  his  hat. 

"Oh,  Maria  Concepcion!  That's  nothing.  Look,  my 
chief,  to  be  married  in  the  church  is  a  great  misfortune 
for  a  man.  After  that  he  is  not  himself  any  more.  How 
can  that  woman  complain  when  I  do  not  drink  even 
at  fiestas  enough  to  be  really  drunk?  I  do  not  beat  her; 
never,  never.  We  were  always  at  peace.  I  say  to  her, 
Come  here,  and  she  comes  straight.  I  say,  Go  there,  and 
she  goes  quickly.  Yet  sometimes  I  looked  at  her  and 
thought,  Now  I  am  married  to  that  woman  in  the  church, 
and  I  felt  a  sinking  inside,  as  if  something  were  lying 
heavy  on  my  stomach.  With  Maria  Rosa  it  is  all  different. 
She  is  not  silent;  she  talks.  When  she  talks  too  much,  I 


Maria  Concepci5n 

slap  her  and  say,  Silence,  thou  simpleton!  and  she  weeps. 
She  is  just  a  girl  with  whom  I  do  as  I  please.  You  know 
how  she  used  to  keep  those  clean  little  bees  in  their  hives? 
She  is  like  their  honey  to  me.  I  swear  it.  I  would  not  harm 
Maria  Concepcion  because  I  am  married  to  her  in  the 
church;  but  also,  my  chief,  I  will  not  leave  Maria  Rosa, 
because  she  pleases  me  more  than  any  other  woman." 

"Let  me  tell  you,  Juan,  things  haven't  been  going  as 
well  as  you  think.  You  be  careful.  Some  day  Maria 
Concepcion  will  just  take  your  head  off  with  that  carv- 
ing knife  of  hers.  You  keep  that  in  mind." 

Juan's  expression  was  the  proper  blend  of  masculine 
triumph  and  sentimental  melancholy.  It  was  pleasant  to 
see  himself  in  the  role  of  hero  to  two  such  desirable 
women.  He  had  just  escaped  from  the  threat  of  a  dis- 
agreeable end.  His  clothes  were  new  and  handsome,  and 
they  had  cost  him  just  nothing.  Maria  Rosa  had  collected 
them  for  him  here  and  there  after  battles.  He  was  walk- 
ing in  the  early  sunshine,  smelling  the  good  smells  of 
ripening  cactus-figs,  peaches,  and  melons,  of  pungent 
berries  dangling  from  the  pepper-trees,  and  the  smoke 
of  his  cigarette  under  his  nose.  He  was  on  his  way  to 
civilian  life  with  his  patient  chief.  His  situation  was  in- 
effably perfect,  and  he  swallowed  it  whole. 

"My  chief,"  he  addressed  Givens  handsomely,  as  one 
man  of  the  world  to  another,  "women  are  good  things, 
but  not  at  this  moment.  With  your  permission,  I  will 
now  go  to  the  village  and  eat.  My  God,  how  I  shall  eat! 
Tomorrow  morning  very  early  I  will  come  to  the  buried 
city  and  work  like  seven  men.  Let  us  forget  Maria  Con- 
cepcion and  Maria  Rosa.  Each  one  in  her  place.  I  will 
manage  them  when  the  time  comes." 

News  of  Juan's  adventure  soon  got  abroad,  and  Juan 
found  many  friends  about  him  during  the  morning. 
They  frankly  commended  his  way  of  leaving  the  army. 
It  was  in  itself  the  act  of  a  hero.  The  new  hero  ate  a 

260 


Katherine  Anne  Porter 

great  deal  and  drank  somewhat,  the  occasion  being  bet- 
ter than  a  feast-day.  It  was  almost  noon  before  he  re- 
turned to  visit  Maria  Rosa. 

He  found  her  sitting  on  a  clean  straw  mat,  rubbing 
fat  on  her  three-hour-old  son.  Before  this  felicitous  vision 
Juan's  emotions  so  twisted  him  that  he  returned  to  the 
village  and  invited  every  man  in  the  "Death  and  Resur- 
rection" pulque  shop  to  drink  with  him. 

Having  thus  taken  leave  of  his  balance,  he  started 
back  to  Maria  Rosa,  and  found  himself  unaccountably 
in  his  own  house,  attempting  to  beat  Maria  Concepcion 
by  way  of  reestablishing  himself  in  his  legal  household. 

Maria  Concepcion,  knowing  all  the  events  of  that  un- 
happy day,  was  not  in  a  yielding  mood,  and  refused  to  be 
beaten.  She  did  not  scream  nor  implore;  she  stood  her 
ground  and  resisted;  she  even  struck  at  him.  Juan, 
amazed,  hardly  knowing  what  he  did,  stepped  back  and 
gazed  at  her  inquiringly  through  a  leisurely  whirling  film 
which  seemed  to  have  lodged  behind  his  eyes.  Certainly 
he  had  not  even  thought  of  touching  her.  Oh,  well,  no 
harm  done.  He  gave  up,  turned  away,  half-asleep  on 
his  feet.  He  dropped  amiably  in  a  shadowed  corner  and 
began  to  snore. 

Maria  Concepcion,  seeing  that  he  was  quiet,  began  to 
bind  the  legs  of  her  fowls.  It  was  market-day  and  she 
was  late.  She  fumbled  and  tangled  the  bits  of  cord  in 
her  haste,  and  set  off  across  the  plowed  fields  instead 
of  taking  the  accustomed  road.  She  ran  with  a  crazy 
panic  in  her  head,  her  stumbling  legs.  Now  and  then 
she  would  stop  and  look  about  her,  trying  to  place  her- 
self, then  go  on  a  few  steps,  until  she  realized  that  she 
was  not  going  towards  the  market. 

At  once  she  came  to  her  senses  completely,  recognized 
the  thing  that  troubled  her  so  terribly,  was  certain  of 
what  she  wanted.  She  sat  down  quietly  under  a  shelter- 
ing thorny  bush  and  gave  herself  over  to  her  long  devour- 

261 


Maria  Concepcion 

ing  sorrow.  The  thing  which  had  for  so  long  squeezed  her 
whole  body  into  a  tight  dumb  knot  of  suffering  suddenly 
broke  with  shocking  violence.  She  jerked  with  the  in- 
voluntary recoil  of  one  who  receives  a  blow,  and  the 
sweat  poured  from  her  skin  as  if  the  wounds  of  her  whole 
life  were  shedding  their  salt  ichor.  Drawing  her  rebozo 
over  her  head,  she  bowed  her  forehead  on  her  updrawn 
knees,  and  sat  there  in  deadly  silence  and  immobility. 
From  time  to  time  she  lifted  her  head  where  the  sweat 
formed  steadily  and  poured  down  her  face,  drenching  the 
front  of  her  chemise,  and  her  mouth  had  the  shape  of 
crying,  but  there  were  no  tears  and  no  sound.  All  her 
being  was  a  dark  confused  memory  of  grief  burning  in  her 
at  night,  of  deadly  baffled  anger  eating  at  her  by  day, 
until  her  very  tongue  tasted  bitter,  and  her  feet  were  as 
heavy  as  if  she  were  mired  in  the  muddy  roads  during  the 
time  of  rains. 

After  a  great  while  she  stood  up  and  threw  the  rebozo 
off  her  face,  and  set  out  walking  again. 

Juan  awakened  slowly,  with  long  yawns  and  grumblings, 
alternated  with  short  relapses  into  sleep  full  of  visions 
and  clamors.  A  blur  of  orange  light  seared  his  eyeballs 
when  he  tried  to  unseal  his  lids.  There  came  from  some- 
where a  low  voice  weeping  without  tears,  saying  mean- 
ingless phrases  over  and  over.  He  began  to  listen.  He 
tugged  at  the  leash  of  his  stupor,  he  strained  to  grasp 
those  words  which  terrified  him  even  though  he  could 
not  quite  hear  them.  Then  he  came  awake  with  frighten- 
ing suddenness,  sitting  up  and  staring  at  the  long  sharp- 
ened streak  of  light  piercing  the  corn-husk  walls  from 
the  level  disappearing  sun. 

Maria  Concepcion  stood  in  the  doorway,  looming 
colossally  tall  to  his  betrayed  eyes.  She  was  talking 
quickly,  and  calling  his  name.  Then  he  saw  her  clearly. 

"God's  name!"  said  Juan,  frozen  to  the  marrow,  "here 

262 


Katherine  Anne  Porter 

I  am  facing  my  death!"  for  the  long  knife  she  wore  habit- 
ually at  her  belt  was  in  her  hand.  But  instead,  she  threw 
it  away,  clear  from  her,  and  got  down  on  her  knees, 
crawling  toward  him  as  he  had  seen  her  crawl  many  times 
toward  the  shrine  at  Guadalupe  Villa.  He  watched  her 
approach  with  such  horror  that  the  hair  of  his  head 
seemed  to  be  lifting  itself  away  from  him.  Falling  forward 
upon  her  face,  she  huddled  over  him,  lips  moving  in  a 
ghostly  whisper.  Her  words  became  clear,  and  Juan 
understood  them  all. 

For  a  second  he  could  not  move  nor  speak.  Then  he 
took  her  head  between  both  his  hands,  and  supported 
her  in  this  way,  saying  swiftly,  anxiously  reassuring,  al- 
most in  a  babble: 

"Oh,  thou  poor  creature!  Oh,  madwoman!  Oh,  my 
Maria  Concepcion,  unfortunate!  Listen.  .  .  .  Don't  be 
afraid.  Listen  to  me!  I  will  hide  thee  away,  I  thy  own 
man  will  protect  thee!  Quiet!  Not  a  sound!" 

Trying  to  collect  himself,  he  held  her  and  cursed  under 
his  breath  for  a  few  moments  in  the  gathering  darkness. 
Maria  Concepcion  bent  over,  face  almost  on  the  ground, 
her  feet  folded  under  her,  as  if  she  would  hide  behind  him. 
For  the  first  time  in  his  life  Juan  was  aware  of  danger. 
This  was  danger.  Maria  Concepcion  would  be  dragged 
away  between  two  gendarmes,  with  him  following  helpless 
and  unarmed,  to  spend  the  rest  of  her  days  in  Belen  Prison, 
maybe.  Danger!  The  night  swarmed  with  threats.  He 
stood  up  and  dragged  her  up  with  him.  She  was  silent  and 
perfectly  rigid,  holding  to  him  with  resistless  strength, 
her  hands  stiffened  on  his  arms. 

"Get  me  the  knife,"  he  told  her  in  a  whisper.  She 
obeyed,  her  feet  slipping  along  the  hard  earth  floor,  her 
shoulders  straight,  her  arms  close  to  her  side.  He  lighted 
a  candle.  Maria  Concepcion  held  the  knife  out  to  him. 
It  was  stained  and  dark  even  to  the  handle  with  drying 
blood. 

263 


Maria  Concepcion 

He  frowned  at  her  harshly,  noting  the  same  stains  on 
her  chemise  and  hands. 

"Takeoff  thy  clothes  and  wash  thy  hands,"  he  ordered. 
He  washed  the  knife  carefully,  and  threw  the  water  wide 
of  the  doorway.  She  watched  him  and  did  likewise  with 
the  bowl  in  which  she  had  bathed. 

"Light  the  brasero  and  cook  food  for  me,"  he  told 
her  in  the  same  peremptory  tone.  He  took  her  garments 
and  went  out.  When  he  returned,  she  was  wearing  an 
old  soiled  dress,  and  was  fanning  the  fire  in  the  charcoal 
burner.  Seating  himself  cross-legged  near  her,  he  stared 
at  her  as  at  a  creature  unknown  to  him,  who  bewildered 
him  utterly,  for  whom  there  was  no  possible  explana- 
tion. She  did  not  turn  her  head,  but  kept  silent  and  still, 
except  for  the  movements  of  her  strong  hands  fanning 
the  blaze  which  cast  sparks  and  small  jets  of  white  smoke, 
flaring  and  dying  rhythmically  with  the  motion  of  the 
fan,  lighting  her  face  and  darkening  it  by  turns. 

Juan's  voice  barely  disturbed  the  silence:  "Listen  to 
me  carefully,  and  tell  me  the  truth,  and  when  the  gen- 
darmes come  here  for  us,  thou  shalt  have  nothing  to 
fear.  But  there  will  be  something  for  us  to  settle  between 
us  afterward." 

The  light  from  the  charcoal  burner  shone  in  her  eyes; 
a  yellow  phosphorescence  glimmered  behind  the  dark 
iris. 

"For  me  everything  is  settled  now,"  she  answered,  in 
a  tone  so  tender,  so  grave,  so  heavy  with  suffering,  that 
Juan  felt  his  vitals  contract.  He  wished  to  repent  openly, 
not  as  a  man,  but  as  a  very  small  child.  He  could  not 
fathom  her,  nor  himself,  nor  the  mysterious  fortunes  of 
life  grown  so  instantly  confused  where  all  had  seemed 
so  gay  and  simple.  He  felt  too  that  she  had  become  in- 
valuable, a  woman  without  equal  among  a  million  women, 
and  he  could  not  tell  why.  He  drew  an  enormous  sigh 
that  rattled  in  his  chest. 

264 


Katharine  Anne  Porter 

"Yes,  yes,  it  is  all  settled.  I  shall  not  go  away  again. 
We  must  stay  here  together." 

Whispering,  he  questioned  her  and  she  answered 
whispering,  and  he  instructed  her  over  and  over  until 
she  had  her  lesson  by  heart.  The  hostile  darkness  of  the 
night  encroached  upon  them,  flowing  over  the  narrow 
threshold,  invading  their  hearts.  It  brought  with  it 
sighs  and  murmurs,  the  pad  of  secretive  feet  in  the  near-by 
road,  the  sharp  staccato  whimper  of  wind  through  the 
cactus  leaves.  All  these  familiar,  once  friendly  cadences 
were  now  invested  with  sinister  terrors;  a  dread,  formless 
and  uncontrollable,  took  hold  of  them  both. 

"Light  another  candle,"  said  Juan,  loudly,  in  too  res- 
olute, too  sharp  a  tone.  "Let  us  eat  now." 

They  sat  facing  each  other  and  ate  from  the  same  dish, 
after  their  old  habit.  Neither  tasted  what  they  ate.  With 
food  half-way  to  his  mouth,  Juan  listened.  The  sound 
of  voices  rose,  spread,  widened  at  the  turn  of  the  road 
along  the  cactus  wall.  A  spray  of  lantern  light  shot 
through  the  hedge,  a  single  voice  slashed  the  blackness, 
ripped  the  fragile  layer  of  silence  suspended  above  the 
hut. 

"Juan  Villegas!" 

"Pass,  friends!"  Juan  roared  back  cheerfully. 

They  stood  in  the  doorway,  simple  cautious  gendarmes 
from  the  village,  mixed-bloods  themselves  with  Indian 
sympathies,  well  known  to  all  the  community.  They 
flashed  their  lanterns  almost  apologetically  upon  the 
pleasant,  harmless  scene  of  a  man  eating  supper  with 
his  wife. 

"Pardon,  brother,"  said  the  leader.  "Someone  has 
killed  the  woman  Maria  Rosa,  and  we  must  question  her 
neighbors  and  friends."  He  paused,  and  added  with  an 
attempt  at  severity,  "Naturally!" 

"Naturally,"  agreed  Juan.  "You  know  that  I  was  a 
good  friend  of  Maria  Rosa.  This  is  bad  news." 

265 


Maria  Concepcion 

They  all  went  away  together,  the  men  walking  in  a 
group,  Maria  Concepcion  following  a  few  steps  in  the 
rear,  near  Juan.  No  one  spoke. 

The  two  points  of  candlelight  at  Maria  Rosa's  head 
fluttered  uneasily;  the  shadows  shifted  and  dodged  on  the 
stained  darkened  walls.  To  Maria  Concepcion  everything 
in  the  smothering  enclosing  room  shared  an  evil  restless- 
ness. The  watchful  faces  of  those  called  as  witnesses,  the 
faces  of  old  friends,  were  made  alien  by  the  look  of  specula- 
tion in  their  eyes.  The  ridges  of  the  rose-colored  rebozo 
thrown  over  the  body  varied  continually,  as  though  the 
thing  it  covered  was  not  perfectly  in  repose.  Her  eyes 
swerved  over  the  body  in  the  open  painted  coffin,  from  the 
candle  tips  at  the  head  to  the  feet,  jutting  up  thinly,  the 
small  scarred  soles  protruding,  freshly  washed,  a  mass  of 
crooked,  half-healed  wounds,  thorn-pricks  and  cuts  of 
sharp  stones.  Her  gaze  went  back  to  the  candle  flame,  to 
Juan's  eyes  warning  her,  to  the  gendarmes  talking  among 
themselves.  Her  eyes  would  not  be  controlled. 

With  a  leap  that  shook  her  her  gaze  settled  upon  the 
face  of  Maria  Rosa.  Instantly  her  blood  ran  smoothly 
again:  there  was  nothing  to  fear.  Even  the  restless  light 
could  not  give  a  look  of  life  to  that  fixed  countenance. 
She  was  dead.  Maria  Concepcion  felt  her  muscles  give 
way  softly;  her  heart  began  beating  steadily  without 
effort.  She  knew  no  more  rancor  against  that  pitiable 
thing  lying  indifferently  in  its  blue  coffin  under  the  fine 
silk  rebozo.  The  mouth  drooped  sharply  at  the  corners  in 
a  grimace  of  weeping  arrested  half-way.  The  brows  were 
distressed;  the  dead  flesh  could  not  cast  off  the  shape  of  its 
last  terror.  It  was  all  finished.  Maria  Rosa  had  eaten 
too  much  honey  and  had  had  too  much  love.  Now  she 
must  sit  in  hell,  crying  over  her  sins  and  her  hard  death 
forever  and  ever. 

Old  Lupe's  cackling  voice  arose.     She  had  spent  the 

266 


Katherine  Anne  Porter 

morning  helping  Maria  Rosa,  and  it  had  been  hard  work. 
The  child  had  spat  blood  the  moment  it  was  born,  a  bad 
sign.  She  thought  then  that  bad  luck  would  come  to  the 
house.  Well,  about  sunset  she  was  in  the  yard  at  the  back 
Df  the  house  grinding  tomatoes  and  peppers.  She  had  left 
mother  and  babe  asleep.  She  heard  a  strange  noise  in  the 
house,  a  choking  and  smothered  calling,  like  someone 
wailing  in  sleep.  Well,  such  a  thing  is  only  natural.  But 
there  followed  a  light,  quick,  thudding  sound — 

"Like  the  blows  of  a  fist?"  interrupted  an  officer. 

"No,  not  at  all  like  such  a  thing." 

"How  do  you  know?" 

"I  am  well  acquainted  with  that  sound,  friends,"  re- 
torted Lupe.  "This  was  something  else." 

She  was  at  a  loss  to  describe  it  exactly.  A  moment 
ater,  there  came  the  sound  of  pebbles  rolling  and  slip- 
Ding  under  feet;  then  she  knew  someone  had  been  there 
ind  was  running  away. 

"Why  did  you  wait  so  long  before  going  to  see?" 

"I  am  old  and  hard  in  the  joints,"  said  Lupe.  "I  cannot 
•un  after  people.  I  walked  as  fast  as  I  could  to  the  cactus 
ledge,  for  it  is  only  by  this  way  that  anyone  can  enter. 
There  was  no  one  in  the  road,  sir,  no  one.  Three  cows, 
vith  a  dog  driving  them;  nothing  else.  When  I  got  to 
Vlaria  Rosa,  she  was  lying  all  tangled  up,  and  from  her 
leek  to  her  middle  she  was  full  of  knife-holes.  It  was 
i  sight  to  move  the  Blessed  Image  Himself!  Her  eyes 


"Never  mind.  Who  came  oftenest  to  her  house  before 
;he  went  away?  Did  you  know  her  enemies?" 

Lupe's  face  congealed,  closed.  Her  spongy  skin  drew 
nto  a  network  of  secretive  wrinkles.  She  turned  with- 
Irawn  and  expressionless  eyes  upon  the  gendarmes. 

"  I  am  an  old  woman.  I  do  not  see  well.  I  cannot  hurry 
>n  my  feet.  I  know  no  enemy  of  Maria  Rosa.  I  did  not 
;ee  anyone  leave  the  clearing." 

267 


Maria  Concepcion 

"You  did  not  hear  splashing  in  the  spring  near  the 
bridge?" 

"No,  sir." 

"Why,  then,  do  our  dogs  follow  a  scent  there  and  lose 
it?" 

"God  only  knows,  my  friend.    I  am  an  old  wo — " 

"  Yes.  How  did  the  footfalls  sound  ? " 

,"Like  the  tread  of  an  evil  spirit!"  Lupe  broke  forth 
in  a  swelling  oracular  tone  that  startled  them.  The  In- 
dians stirred  uneasily,  glanced  at  the  dead,  then  at  Lupe. 
They  half  expected  her  to  produce  the  evil  spirit  among 
them  at  once. 

The  gendarme  began  to  lose  his  temper. 

"No,  poor  unfortunate;  I  mean,  were  they  heavy  or 
light?  The  footsteps  of  a  man  or  of  a  woman?  Was  the 
person  shod  or  barefoot?" 

A  glance  at  the  listening  circle  assured  Lupe  of  their 
thrilled  attention.  She  enjoyed  the  dangerous  importance 
of  her  situation.  She  could  have  ruined  that  Maria  Con- 
cepcion with  a  word,  but  it  was  even  sweeter  to  make 
fools  of  these  gendarmes  who  went  about  spying  on 
honest  people.  She  raised  her  voice  again.  What  she  had 
not  seen  she  could  not  describe,  thank  God!  No  one 
could  harm  her  because  her  knees  were  stiff  and  she 
could  not  run  even  to  seize  a  murderer.  As  for  knowing 
the  difference  between  footfalls,  shod  or  bare,  man  or 
woman,  nay,  between  devil  and  human,  who  ever  heard 
of  such  madness? 

"My  eyes  are  not  ears,  gentlemen,"  she  ended  grandly, 
"but  upon  my  heart  I  swear  those  footsteps  fell  as  the 
tread  of  the  spirit  of  evil!" 

"Imbecile!"  yapped  the  leader  in  a  shrill  voice.  "Take 
her  away,  one  of  you!  Now,  Juan  Villegas,  tell  me — " 

Juan  told  his  story  patiently,  several  times  over.  He 
had  returned  to  his  wife  that  day.  She  had  gone  to  mar- 
ket as  usual.  He  had  helped  her  prepare  her  fowls.  She 

268 


Katherine  Anne  Porter 

had  returned  about  mid-afternoon,  they  had  talked, 
she  had  cooked,  they  had  eaten,  nothing  was  amiss. 
Then  the  gendarmes  came  with  the  news  about  Maria 
Rosa.  That  was  all.  Yes,  Maria  Rosa  had  run  away 
with  him,  but  there  had  been  no  bad  blood  between  him 
and  his  wife  on  this  account,  nor  between  his  wife  and 
Maria  Rosa.  Everybody  knew  that  his  wife  was  a  quiet 
woman. 

Maria  Concepcion  heard  her  own  voice  answering 
without  a  break.  It  was  true  at  first  she  was  troubled 
when  her  husband  went  away,  but  after  that  she  had  not 
worried  about  him.  It  was  the  way  of  men,  she  believed. 
She  was  a  church-married  woman  and  knew  her  place. 
Well,  he  had  come  home  at  last.  She  had  gone  to  market, 
but  had  come  back  early,  because  now  she  had  her  man 
to  cook  for.  That  was  all. 

Other  voices  broke  in.  A  toothless  old  man  said:  "She 
is  a  woman  of  good  reputation  among  us,  and  Maria 
Rosa  was  not."  A  smiling  young  mother,  Anita,  baby  at 
breast,  said:  "If  no  one  thinks  so,  how  can  you  accuse 
her?  It  was  the  loss  of  her  child  and  not  of  her  husband 
that  changed  her  so."  Another:  "Maria  Rosa  had  a 
strange  life,  apart  from  us.  How  do  we  know  who  might 
have  come  from  another  place  to  do  her  evil?"  And  old 
Soledad  spoke  up  boldly:  "When  I  saw  Maria  Concep- 
cion in  the  market  today,  I  said,  'Good  luck  to  you, 
Maria  Concepcion,  this  is  a  happy  day  for  you!'"  and 
she  gave  Maria  Concepcion  a  long  easy  stare,  and  the 
smile  of  a  born  wise-woman. 

Maria  Concepcion  suddenly  felt  herself  guarded,  sur- 
rounded, upborne  by  her  faithful  friends.  They  were 
around  her,  speaking  for  her,  defending  her,  the  forces 
of  life  were  ranged  invincibly  with  her  against  the  beaten 
dead.  Maria  Rosa  had  thrown  away  her  share  of  strength 
in  them,  she  lay  forfeited  among  them.  Maria  Concep- 
cion looked  from  one  to  the  other  of  the  circling,  intent 

269 


Maria  Concepcion 

faces.  Their  eyes  gave  back  reassurance,  understanding, 
a  secret  and  mighty  sympathy. 

The  gendarmes  were  at  a  loss.  They,  too,  felt  that 
sheltering  wall  cast  impenetrably  around  her.  They  were 
certain  she  had  done  it,  and  yet  they  could  not  accuse 
her.  Nobody  could  be  accused;  there  was  not  a  shred 
of  true  evidence.  They  shrugged  their  shoulders  and 
snapped  their  fingers  and  shuffled  their  feet.  Well,  then, 
good  night  to  everybody.  Many  pardons  for  having  in- 
truded. Good  health! 

A  small  bundle  lying  against  the  wall  at  the  head  of  the 
coffin  squirmed  like  an  eel.  A  wail,  a  mere  sliver  of  sound, 
issued.  Maria  Concepcion  took  the  son  of  Maria  Rosa  in 
her  arms. 

"He  is  mine,"  she  said  clearly,  "I  will  take  him  with 
me." 

No  one  assented  in  words,  but  an  approving  nod,  a  bare 
breath  of  complete  agreement,  stirred  among  them  as 
they  made  way  for  her. 

Maria  Concepcion,  carrying  the  child,  followed  Juan 
from  the  clearing.  The  hut  was  left  with  its  lighted  candles 
and  a  crowd  of  old  women  who  would  sit  up  all  night, 
drinking  coffee  and  smoking  and  telling  ghost  stories. 

Juan's  exaltation  had  burned  out.  There  was  not  an 
ember  of  excitement  left  in  him.  He  was  tired.  The 
perilous  adventure  was  over.  Maria  Rosa  had  vanished, 
to  come  no  more  forever.  Their  days  of  marching,  of 
eating,  of  quarreling  and  making  love  between  battles, 
were  all  over.  Tomorrow  he  would  go  back  to  dull  and 
endless  labor,  he  must  descend  into  the  trenches  of  the 
buried  city  as  Maria  Rosa  must  go  into  her  grave.  He 
felt  his  veins  fill  up  with  bitterness,  with  black  unendurable 
melancholy.  Oh,  Jesus!  what  bad  luck  overtakes  a  man! 

Well,  there  was  no  way  out  of  it  now.  For  the  moment 
he  craved  only  to  sleep.  He  was  so  drowsy  he  could 

270 


Katherine  Anne  Porter 

scarcely  guide  his  feet.  The  occasional  light  touch  of  the 
woman  at  his  elbow  was  as  unreal,  as  ghostly  as  the  brush- 
ing of  a  leaf  against  his  face.  He  did  not  know  why  he  had 
fought  to  save  her,  and  now  he  forgot  her.  There  was 
nothing  in  him  except  a  vast  blind  hurt  like  a  covered 
wound. 

He  entered  the  jacal,  and  without  waiting  to  light  a 
candle,  threw  off  his  clothing,  sitting  just  within  the  door. 
He  moved  with  lagging,  half-awake  hands,  to  strip  his 
body  of  its  heavy  finery.  With  a  long  groaning  sigh  of 
relief  he  fell  straight  back  on  the  floor,  almost  instantly 
asleep,  his  arms  flung  up  and  outward. 

Maria  Concepcion,  a  small  clay  jar  in  her  hand,  ap- 
proached the  gentle  little  mother  goat  tethered  to  a 
sapling,  which  gave  and  yielded  as  she  pulled  at  the  rope's 
end  after  the  farthest  reaches  of  grass  about  her.  The 
kid,  tied  up  a  few  feet  away,  rose  bleating,  its  feathery 
fleece  shivering  in  the  fresh  wind.  Sitting  on  her  heels, 
holding  his  tether,  she  allowed  him  to  suckle  a  few  mo- 
ments. Afterward — all  her  movements  were  deliberate 
and  even — she  drew  a  supply  of  milk  for  the  child. 

She  sat  against  the  wall  of  her  house,  near  the  door- 
way. The  child,  fed  and  asleep,  was  cradled  in  the  hollow 
of  her  crossed  legs.  The  silence  overfilled  the  world, 
the  skies  flowed  down  evenly  to  the  rim  of  the  valley, 
the  stealthy  moon  crept  slantwise  to  the  shelter  of  the 
mountains.  She  felt  soft  and  warm  all  over;  she  dreamed 
that  the  newly  born  child  was  her  own,  and  she  was 
resting  deliciously. 

Maria  Concepcion  could  hear  Juan's  breathing.  The 
sound  vapored  from  the  low  doorway,  calmly;  the  house 
seemed  to  be  resting  after  a  burdensome  day.  She 
breathed,  too,  very  slowly  and  quietly,  each  inspiration 
saturating  her  with  repose.  The  child's  light,  faint  breath 
was  a  mere  shadowy  moth  of  sound  in  the  silver  air. 
The  night,  the  earth  under  her,  seemed  to  swell  and  re- 

271 


Maria  Concepcion 

cede  together  with  a  limitless,  unhurried,  benign  breath- 
ing. She  drooped  and  closed  her  eyes,  feeling  the  slow 
rise  and  fall  within  her  own  body.  She  did  not  know 
what  it  was,  but  it  eased  her  all  through.  Even  as  she  was 
falling  asleep,  head  bowed  over  the  child,  she  was  still 
aware  of  a  strange,  wakeful  happiness. 


272 


THE  APOSTATE 
by 

Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 


LILLIAN  BARNARD  GILKES,  who  was  born  in  Jackson- 
ville, Florida,  in  1902,  studied  at  Columbia  University, 
and  taught  a  course  in  the  writing  of  the  short  story  in  the 
Home  Study  Department  of  University  Extension  for 
several  years.  Under  the  supervision  of  the  English  Depart- 
ment of  Columbia  University,  she  wrote  the  course  in  the 
technique  of  the  short  story  which  is  still  in  use  in  the  Home 
Study  work.  She  has  done  editorial  and  free  lance  writing, 
and  lecturing. 


THE  APOSTATE 

r   •   iHE  autobus  was  to  start  from  the  Piazza  Venezia 

I  at  two  o'clock  sharp.  Thomas  took  out  his  watch. 
•*•  " Seven  minutes  yet!" 

The  plain,  practical  face  of  Sarah  sitting  beside  him 
in  the  bus  bloomed  out  in  a  proud  smile.  "Danny  got 
us  here  in  plenty  of  time — he  said  we  ought  not  to 
hurry " 

"Uh-huh." 

But  Thomas  wished  they  hadn't  been  ahead  of  time. 
He  reached  for  his  handkerchief  and  mopped  his  bald 
forehead  which  still  had  a  few  briary  gray  hairs  roost- 
ing there,  and  then  he  wiped  round  his  collar  which  had 
wilted  during  luncheon.  After  that  he  flung  on  his  hat — 
a  gesture  to  let  the  world  know  it  was  time  to  be  moving 
on.  But  the  driver  was  nowhere  in  sight. 

Two  young  ladies  in  the  party  wanted  to  know  what 
the  building  was  across  the  street,  with  all  those  naked 
figures  leaning  over  the  fountain  and  a  thing  like  a 
summer-house  perched  at  the  top  of  the  steps. 

Danny  could  tell  them,  Sarah  thought — if  they  really 
wanted  to  know.  Danny  knew  everything  about  Rome. 
He  was  studious  like  that  from  a  little  chap — and  every 
bit  as  good  as  an  encyclopaedia.  My,  but  a  delicate  boy! 
She  could  smile  now  to  think  how  scared  she'd  been  about 
him,  but  she  thought  she  would  never  raise  him.  Feeling 
so  thankful  he  had  been  spared  to  them — she  couldn't 
help  it,  whenever  she  thought  of  that  time — she  leaned 
toward  the  young  ladies  and  said  pleasantly,  "It's  dread- 
fully warm,  isn't  it!" 

Reprinted  from  Scribner's  Magazine,  January  1933,  by  permission  of  the  au- 
thor and  of  the  editors. 

275 


The  Apostate 

"Something  fierce!" 

Thomas  said  "Whew!"  and  hit  his  knee  with  the  brim 
of  his  straw  hat. 

"Are  you  staying  long  in  Rome?" 

The  young  ladies  said  they  wanted  to  get  out  of  that 
heat.  And  they  didn't  care  for  the  Italian  cooking. 

Everything  has  its  disadvantages,  of  course — even 
when  dreams  surprisingly  turn  into  facts.  Sarah  and 
Thomas  had  saved  to  take  this  trip,  to  come  over  and 
see  Danny.  In  anticipation  they  had  dwelled  on  it  as 
some  astounding  climax  of  their  lives,  a  rich  holiday 
conferred  by  the  same  goodness  of  fortune  that  gave 
them  their  splendid  son.  Now  they  actually  were  hav- 
ing the  time  of  their  lives.  But  travelling  is  not  so  easy 
— not  what  it  seems  when  you  are  sitting  on  your  own 
verandah.  Sarah  had  never  known  how  tired  she  could 
get,  which  proved  she  was  getting  old.  Especially  her 
feet — how  they  did  ache,  the  whole  time!  And  she  had 
expected  Rome,  somehow,  would  be  much  bigger  and 
grander  than  it  was.  But  it  was  all  so  different  from 
New  England — the  scenery,  the  lovely  gardens — wasn't 
it  just  like  a  dream  to  be  here  with  Danny?  Thinking  of 
this,  she  felt  distressed  to  hear  people  complain  about 
the  food. 

"We  have  been  here  three  days  and  we've  seen  pretty 
nearly  everything.  It's  wonderful  how  much  you  can 
do,  when  you've  got  some  one  to  take  you  around!  Our 
son  knows  all  the  places — he's  at  one  of  the  seminaries. 
We  came  over  to  see  him,  but  tomorrow  we've  got  to 

take  the  train " 

She  broke  off.  She  would  not  think  about  taking  the 
train  tomorrow.  She  would  have  the  courage  to  be  happy 
for  Danny's  sake,  every  minute  of  the  time  now.  Surely, 
yes — for  they  would  have  this  wonderful  time  to  look 

back  on,  she  and  Thomas 

A  man  shoved  a  tray  of  souvenirs  in  through  the  win- 

276 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

dow  of  the  bus,  and  stepping  on  the  running-board  he 
put  his  head  inside  after  the  tray. 

"Post-card,  souvenir — ten  lire,  signora.  Real  coral!" 
He  held  up  a  chain,  and  fondling  the  beads,  let  them 
drip  through  the  fingers  of  his  other  hand.  "Very  cheap!" 

Sarah  hesitated.  She  had  never  seen  so  much  to  buy 
as  there  was  in  Rome — everything  from  beads  to  the 
bones  of  martyrs  and  the  peace  of  heaven  after  you  were 
dead.  Sacrilegious,  that  was — but  you  couldn't  tell  about 
these  foreigners.  And  she  did  love  beads!  At  home,  she 
wouldn't  have  dared  spend  money  like  this.  She  looked 
from  the  beads  to  the  man,  and  saw  Danny  coming  back 
with  the  tickets. 

He  waved  the  tickets  in  front  of  him  and  said  very 
firmly,  "Don't  take  any  more  of  those  things — you've 
got  enough,  I  think " 

"No,  thank  you — "  she  told  the  man.  "No,  I  don't 
want  anything " 

Danny  waved  the  man  away,  and  climbed  into  the 
bus. 

"Here — "  said  Thomas,  moving  over.  "Sit  between 
us,  boy " 

"You  have  to  be  sharp  with  those  fellows — they'll 
do  you  if  they  can!"  Danny  was  smiling,  but  he  sounded 
terribly  serious.  "The  Italians  have  got  a  mean  streak 
in  them  that  way — hard  after  the  dollar,  you  know. 
Well,  we'll  be  off  in  a  minute  now " 

Sure  enough,  the  driver  strolled  out  of  a  tobacco  shop 
and  cranked  up  the  bus.  The  conductor  on  the  driver's 
seat  turned  round  to  count  the  heads.  The  bus  rolled 
out  of  the  Piazza. 

"For  Pete's  sake!"  One  of  the  young  ladies  pointed 
out  of  the  window.  "Look  at  all  those  cats!" 

Sarah  looked.  And  Thomas  stared  as  if  he  saw,  that 
instant,  the  ghost  of  a  Roman  emperor,  clad  in  the  toga 
and  waving  the  imperial  sceptre,  spring  out  of  the  stones 

277 


The  Apostate 

and  order  him  to  be  flung  to  the  lions.  In  a  long  rectan- 
gular space,  fifteen  or  twenty  feet  below  the  street  level — 
why,  there  must  have  been  a  hundred  cats!  Pink  olean- 
ders bloomed  against  the  walls  of  the  enclosure,  and 
whole  families  of  cats  dozed  in  the  shade  of  them.  Some, 
going  apart  from  the  crowd,  stalked  with  tremendous 
feline  indifference  across  the  sun-beaten  area;  others  re- 
clined in  narrow  strips  of  shade  made  by  fallen  capitals. 

"Well,  I  never!"  Sarah  gasped. 

As  the  bus  curved  past  the  place,  she  caught  sight  of 
a  battle  in  progress  over  in  one  corner.  A  black  midget 
advanced  and  bowed  its  back  at  an  orange  tiger,  and 
lifting  one  paw,  planted  a  swat  on  the  jaw  of  its  yellow 
enemy. 

"How  do  they  get  out  of  there?"  Thomas  wanted  to 
know.  "Too  high  to  jump,  I  should  think " 

Danny  was  feeling  self-conscious,  very  much  annoyed 
because  the  young  women  were  listening.  "We've  just 
left  Trajan's  Forum  behind — "  He  leaned  forward, 
raising  his  voice,  and  his  manner  instantly  became  a 
reproof  to  the  two  girls  for  their  common  behavior. 

"The  Romans,  you  know,  put  those  forums — fora, 
rather — all  over  the  city.  The  emperors  did  it  to  impress 
the  people,  and  each  emperor  tried  to  do  something  more 
elaborate  than  the  last  man.  The  column  in  the  centre 
used  to  have  at  the  top  a  statue  of  the  Emperor  Trajan, 
but  about  twenty-five  years  ago,  when  they  started  to 
excavate  Trajan's  Forum,  the  Pope  had  a  statue  of 
Saint  Paul  put  there.  The  cats  occupy  the  forum  now. 
They  are  protected  there,  people  feed  them — and  they 
never  go  out.  It's  quite  an  accepted  fact,  the  cats  in 
Trajan's  Forum — one  of  the  landmarks  of  Rome.  You 
find  that  kind  of  thing  quite  often  in  this  country. 
Simple-hearted  people,  the  Italians,  you  know — just  like 
children!" 

"Oh,  yes—"  said  Thomas.    "Oh,  sure!" 

278 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

Sarah  nodded  her  head.  But  neither  of  them  quite 
took  it  in.  They  listened  attentively  to  all  Danny  told 
them  about  the  customs  of  Italy,  and  while  they  hung 
on  every  word  their  minds  were  on  something  else.  What 
did  they  know  of  the  contents  of  books  ?  They  were  old 
folks.  But  their  son  was  a  great  student.  Look  where 
his  application  and  learning  had  gotten  him — and  he'd 
go  right  on  up  to  the  top ! 

But  if  only  he  were  somewhere  nearer  home — not 
with  an  ocean  between.  It  took  so  long  for  letters  to 
get  to  America.  Sarah  would  feel  better  about  it  all  if 
he  were  just  where  she  could  look  after  him,  to  see  that 
he  got  enough  good  food  and  plenty  of  sleep.  He  neglected 
himself  so.  Why,  when  he  got  with  a  book  he'd  sit  up 
till  all  hours — and  many  a  time  it  was  broad  daylight 
when  she  found  him,  still  reading.  She  thought  he  looked 
peaked,  dreadfully  thin,  and  so — so  sort  of  hollow-eyed. 
He  was  so  nervous — he  seemed  excited  all  of  the  time. 
It  wasn't  natural.  While  he  was  talking  his  eyes  shone, 
a  flush  came  on  his  face — and  he  had  a  feverish  unnatural 
look,  as  though  something  were  burning  him  up  inside. 
When  he  thought  he  wasn't  watched  he  would  go  quite 
limp,  staring  in  front  of  him  at  nothing.  She  had  seen 
that  look — that  queer  strained  look  on  his  face — as  they 
leaned  out  of  the  train  window  in  the  station  and  saw  him 
coming  along  the  platform.  It  had  gone  right  to  her 
heart.  She  turned  round  to  find  Thomas  and  gave  a  cry 
of  fear.  "Oh,  he's  sick!  Thomas,  look — oh,  what's  the 
matter  with  him?"  "Looks  a  bit  seedy — "  Thomas 
agreed  with  her.  But  as  soon  as  she  had  kissed  him,  when 
she  felt  his  arms  come  around  her  in  a  loving  embrace 
she  forgot  everything  else  in  the  one  fact — the  thrilling, 
comforting  fact  that  she  had  him  back  again  and  he  was 
her  own  boy.  Then  she  stole  a  long  look  at  him  and  tried 
to  make  her  question  sound  matter-of-fact.  "Are  you 
all  right,  Danny?  Do  you  feel  well?"  And  right  away 

279 


The  Apostate 

he  was  on  edge,  impatient  of  her  worrying  about  him. 
"Why,  of  course,  mother — you  aren't  going  to  be  silly 
about  my  health!" 

But  his  white  face,  his  eyes  like  burnt  shadows — they 
hurt  her  to  see.  She  couldn't  put  that  stretched  look  out 
of  her  mind. 

The  bus  crept  out  of  a  winding  black  street  where  the 
houses  almost  met  overhead,  and  the  Colosseum  stood 
up  grandly  before  them.  Danny  told  them  about  the 
great  theatre  that  held  eighty  thousand  people,  pointing 
out  the  emperor's  box,  explaining  how  on  the  days  of  the 
great  shows  a  canvas  awning  was  stretched  overhead  to 
protect  the  spectators  from  the  sun. 

Thomas  said,  "Some  size!" 

"Right!   When  you  think  of  such  things " 

Danny  paused,  emotion  stopping  his  thought.  The 
pagan  monuments  exercised  a  fascination  his  vulnerable 
mind  could  not  resist,  though  he  knew  them  to  have 
been  reared  in  abomination.  For  the  symbolism  of  the 
Christian  victory  was  here — spirit  over  flesh,  the  Empire 
of  Christ,  the  Holy  Church  triumphant  in  the  seat  of 
the  heathen  gods.  His  mind  was  tuned  in  symbols. 

What  was  it?  Seeing  his  abstraction,  the  question  be- 
gan to  beat  again  in  Sarah's  mind.  What  was  the  matter 
with  him?  Why,  when  he  spoke  like  that — in  that  tranced 
voice — did  he  seem  so  changed?  Not  her  son  any  more, 
but  some  grave  stranger  whom  she  was  in  awe  of. 

"It's  very  chastening — "  he  went  on.  "There's  a 
great  lesson  for  us  in  modern  times — not  to  let  our  cor- 
rupt pride  carry  us  too  far.  The  vanity  of  the  Roman 
builders — ah,  but  think  of  the  American  skyscrapers!" 

Beside  the  Arch  of  Constantine  the  bus  stopped  for 
two  priests  to  get  on.  One  was  a  young  man,  with  a  lean 
strong  body  and  faded  blue  eyes  that  made  his  sallow 
face  look  tarnished.  He  was  wearing  a  black  gown  and 

280 


Lillian  Barnard  Gllkes 

a  little  hard  flat  hat,  and  his  finger-nails  were  bitten  off 
and  dirty.  The  other,  in  plain  black  clothes,  had  a  rosary 
hung  round  his  neck.  He  bowed  to  the  people  in  the  bus. 
His  appearance  was  quite  ordinary,  but  as  he  seated 
himself  every  one  turned  to  look  at  him — feeling,  no  doubt, 
that  it  would  be  a  bad  thing  to  come  into  conflict  with  a 
man  whose  eye  emitted  such  a  cool  and  cunning  beam. 
His  self-possession,  that  was  almost  insolence,  would 
make  people  afraid  of  his  will.  He  spoke  in  English  to 
his  companion;  and  as  he  talked,  there  came  on  his  face 
a  look  of  sarcastic  but  not  unfriendly  amusement. 

Staring  past  the  priests,  Thomas  sighed  and  forgot 
he  was  in  Rome.  A  long  aisle  of  backward-turning  years 
unrolled  before  him — that  aisle  of  time  down  which  he 
and  Sarah  had  walked  hand  in  hand,  starting  from  their 
courtship  and  taking  them  past  the  few  scattered  mile- 
stones that  humped  above  the  uneventful  level  of  their 
mingled  lives.  The  first  mile-stone,  quite  near  the  starting- 
place,  was  a  grave — the  dim  mound  which  held  the  sad 
little  ghost  that  had  flown  away  from  them  so  soon  after 
it  put  on  mortal  flesh.  The  next  mile-stone  was  Danny's 
birth.  Thomas  stared  out  of  the  window  at  the  smooth 
brown  foreground  of  the  Roman  Campagna,  from  which 
a  haze  of  dust  rose  up  to  the  sky  making  the  road  and  the 
distance  one,  and  an  old  vexation  troubled  him  again. 
Too  bad  the  boy  had  mixed  himself  up  with  the  Roman 
Catholics!  None  of  that  in  his  family,  or  Sarah's.  Plain 
Protestant  folks  on  both  sides,  right  back  to  Plymouth 
Rock.  Unaccountable  where  the  boy  got  it  from!  But 
he  was  always  deep.  There  was  something  dead  earnest 
about  him,  some  quality  that  seemed  to  lift  him  up  and 
put  him  out  of  reach.  He  said  it  was  his  faith.  Well 

Another  mile-stone  loomed  on  the  smooth  horizon  of 
his  past,  and  Thomas  heard  Sarah's  voice  calling  him  to 
come  into  the  front  parlor.  Like  the  majority  of  village 
front  parlors  this  was  an  ungracious  room,  frigid  and 

281 


The  Apostate 

tidy,  as  becomes  the  apartment  dedicated  to  unused  and 
useless  possessions.  But  somehow,  the  parlor  had  seemed 
the  right  place  to  discuss  this  thing.  He  walked  in  and 
found  Sarah  standing  in  the  middle  of  the  room.  "Look 
here!"  She  spoke  queerly.  And  then  she  showed  him  a 
crucifix  and  a  rosary  she  had  found  in  Danny's  things 
when  she  was  looking  for  his  socks  to  mend.  They  looked 
at  each  other,  voiceless.  And  Sarah  said  after  a  bit, 
"Well,  what  do  you  make  of  this?"  But  he  could  only 
gape  at  her,  "What  do  you?"  Then  he  burst  out,  "Good 
Lord!  How  long  do  you  suppose — he's  had  those  things 
in  the  house?"  She  answered,  as  full  of  incredulity,  "I'm 
sure  I  don't  know!"  Again  their  looks  met  over  the 
question  neither  spoke:  what's  come  over  him?  If  Danny 
had  turned  himself  into  a  Chocktaw  Indian,  or  a  sun- 
worshipping  heathen,  it  could  not  have  been  a  harder 
thing  to  understand.  When  Thomas  found  his  voice, 
light  broke  over  the  dark  upheaval  of  his  mind.  "Sarah, 
this  means — it  means  he's  got  another  religion — he 
doesn't  believe  as  we  do!"  The  realization  burnt  like 
flame.  "He's  got  hold  of  some  nonsense — !"  he  shouted 
in  his  dismay.  "Sh-sh!"  Sarah  shook  him  by  the  arm; 
her  touch  steadied  him  a  little.  "Let  him  alone,  Thomas. 
You  know  you  can't  force  him — you  won't  do  any  good — " 
Ah,  he  felt  very  baffled  and  miserable  then.  Not  in  the 
boy's  confidence  at  all.  But  Sarah  was  right — you  couldn't 
force  him.  He  wouldn't  give  in. 

There  was  a  bump.  Hey!  Thomas  was  flung  hard 
against  the  invisible  angularities  of  the  young  woman 
next  to  him.  The  bus  had  stopped. 

A  gabbling  confusion  quickly  arose,  all  on  account  of  a 
goat  in  the  road.  The  goat  which  was  being  driven  by  a 
peasant  woman  stood  boldly  in  the  way,  its  legs  spread 
apart,  immovable  and  baffling,  while  a  bitter  altercation 
in  impassioned  Italian  raged  between  the  driver  and  the 
peasant  woman  concerning  the  right  to  advance.  When 

282 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

at  length  the  mischievous  animal  was  induced  to  budge  a 
trifle  to  one  side,  so  the  bus  could  pass,  it  appeared  that 
defendant  and  plaintiff  both  were  equally  vindicated. 
Thomas  grinned. 

By  Jake,  that  animal  got  the  best  of  it — you  couldn't 
turn  a  goat  from  his  fixed  intention!  Why,  that  goat 
made  him  feel  at  home  in  Italy.  Now  who  would  have 
expected  that?  Here  he  was,  and  Sarah,  in  this  foreign 
land — and  Danny  showing  them  the  sights  like  the  king's 
agent.  No,  it  would  be  the  Pope's.  Well,  he  guessed  it 
was  all  right.  Danny  was  a  good  boy,  and  no  notions 
about  incense  and  the  rest  of  it  could  unsettle  that.  Never 
had  given  them  any  trouble  or  anxiety  about — about  a 
young  man's  difficulties — oh,  nothing  like  that!  Thomas, 
smiling  at  such  a  thought,  felt  a  glow  like  a  warm  perspi- 
ration coming  out  all  over  him.  That  boy  would  make 
good — and  his  dad  would  stand  by  him,  sure! 

"Say,  what's  that  over  there?"  He  asked  the  question 
without  interest  in  knowing,  but  because — well,  he  was 
proud  of  the  boy.  Liked  to  hear  him  talk. 

Danny  said  there  were  ruins  like  those  everywhere  in 
the  teeming  vicinity  of  Rome.  You  couldn't  step  but 
you  came  upon  a  bit  of  wall,  or  a  piece  of  the  aqueduct. 

"The  things  tourists  come  to  see — putting  post-card 
atmosphere  before  the  eternal  spirit — the  spirit  of  the 
Christian  martyrs!  Yes,  people  go  abroad  to  look  at 
architecture — but  how  little  interest  they  take  in  the 
first  monuments  of  our  faith,  which  are  as  ancient — 
as  ancient  as  the  monuments  of  the  Roman  Forum!" 

"Ah!  But  remember — "  The  dark-eyed  priest  had 
been  listening.  "The  stone  of  our  monuments  came  off 
the  pagan  temples — a  most  regrettable  fact " 

"Oh,  if  you  look  at  it  that  way — !"  Danny  was  sud- 
denly very  angry.  What  right  had  this  fellow  to  chal- 
lenge him?  He  turned  on  the  priest,  hating  him  and 
feeling  that  the  spirit  of  the  martyrs  had  somehow  been 

283 


The  Apostate 

impugned.  "I  should  call  that  being  disloyal  to  the 
Church!" 

"Some  of  us  think  differently " 

"There  can  be  no  difference  of  opinion  touching  the 
Church's  infallibility!" 

Thomas  looked  at  Sarah,  and  she  looked  at  him.  He 
said  "Gosh!"  under  his  breath.  And  she  felt  as  if  she 
were  waiting  for  a  fire-cracker  to  go  off.  She  didn't  know 
what  they  were  arguing  about,  but  for  strangers  to 
quarrel — churchmen  too!  Danny  used  not  to  be  like 
that — so  touchy  and  ready  to  fly  off  the  handle.  It  was — 
it  must  be  because  he  wasn't  well. 

"If  you  are  discussing  doctrine — "  The  priest  spoke 
in  a  quiet,  slow  voice.  "That's  a  different  matter — quite. 
Church  doctrine  must  be  held  infallible — only  so  can 
discipline  be  maintained  within  the  ecclesiastical  organiza- 
tion. But  I'm  not  here  as  a  churchman  now — I'm  on  a 
holiday — you  see,  I'm  not  speaking  from  the  ecclesiastical 
point  of  view.  And — "  he  added  with  a  queer  smile — 
"as  a  spectator — a  tourist — I  probably  have  some  feel- 
ings in  common  with  the  layman." 

"Well — "  said  Danny,  shocked  quite  beyond  discre- 
tion— "If  you  mean  that  you  hold  private  convictions 
contrary  to  the  Church's  teaching,  that's  very  serious — 
that  makes  you  a  hypocrite!" 

"Oh,  not  necessarily!"   The  priest  laughed. 

"But  you  believe  in  compromise " 

"Naturally.  And  don't  you?  Is  not  the  Church's  his- 
tory a  record  of  judicious  and  enlightened  compromise? 
Indeed,  how  are  you  going  to  bring  the  masses  of  erring 
mankind  to  the  faith  and  keep  them  there  if  you  do  not 
compromise  with  human  weakness?" 

Still  smiling,  he  turned  to  Thomas  and  said  very  cor- 
dially, "If  it's  of  interest  to  you — the  ruin  you  were 
asking  about  is  what's  left  of  a  house  where  Saint  Gregory 
— that  was  Gregory  the  Great — lived  as  a  monk.  As  a 

284 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

pope,  too,  he  taught  there.  They've  got  a  table  there 
now  of  the  second  century — just  think  of  that! — from 
which  Saint  Gregory  gave  food  to  the  poor." 

"You  don't  say!"  Thomas  was  astounded.  But — if 
the  table  had  hung  on  that  long,  the  saint  hadn't.  He 
wondered  if  they  had  got  any  of  his  whiskers  and  finger- 
nails around  anywhere. 

"It  would  be  worth  your  while  to  make  another  trip 
out  here  and  go  into  that  house " 

"Oh,  I'm  sure!"  Sarah  was  extremely  relieved  to  find 
something  she  could  agree  with.  If  the  argument  were 
begun  again  it  would  become  a  quarrel  and  this  time, 
surely,  something  terrible  would  happen.  Obscurely, 
she  felt  that  Danny  was  in  the  wrong  and  she  wanted  to 
protect  him,  to  rescue  his  dignity  for  him,  if  he  would  not 
himself.  Apologizing,  she  added,  "But  I'm  afraid  there 
isn't  time " 

"Oh!  Well,  there  never  is — nobody  ever  has  time 
enough  in  Rome." 

Really  he  means  well,  she  thought.  But  remembering 
that  they  were  leaving  tomorrow,  suddenly  home  seemed 
terribly  far  away.  Would  they  ever  reach  home  again? 
She  tried  to  picture  home  and,  strangely,  she  could  form 
no  image  of  her  accustomed  life.  It  seemed  incalculably 
remote — more  distant,  even,  than  that  foreign  destina- 
tion they  could  not  imagine,  when  she  and  Thomas 
boarded  the  giant  ship  that  was  to  take  them  to  the  other 
side  of  the  world.  Nonsense!  Home  was  right  there 
where  it  had  always  been — it  wouldn't  have  walked  away 
in  their  absence!  But  she  felt  afraid — of  what,  she  did 
not  know.  And  now  she  did  not  want  to  visit  the  Cata- 
combs or  do  any  more  of  the  fatiguing  things  people  do 
in  Rome.  They  had  not  come  all  that  journey  across  the 
ocean  to  look  at  Roman  relics  or  at  churches  the  Chris- 
tians had  built.  They  had  come  to  see  their  son.  The 

285 


The  Apostate 

time  was  going — all  but  a  few  hours  gone — and  they  had 
seen  hardly  anything  of  him.  There  was  so  much  to  do, 
and  he  wouldn't  have  them  miss  anything.  But — why, 
they  had  not  had  a  real  good  talk  together  yet!  And 
tomorrow — tomorrow  they  must  say  good-by  to  Danny. 
Why,  why  was  it  so?  Her  health  was  good,  but  you  never 
know — she  might  die  without  ever  seeing  her  son  again. 
And  now  that  dry  landscape  out  there — the  Appian 
Way — though  the  sun  was  shining  full  on  it,  seemed  to 
go  under  a  shadow  which  made  it  monstrous  and  alien 
and  ugly;  and  hot  as  the  temperature  was,  she  shivered 
looking  at  it. 

Danny  was  staring  angrily  out  of  the  window.  The 
priest,  with  a  peculiar  crafty  smile  on  his  face,  continued 
talking  to  Sarah. 

"I  walked  out  here  the  other  day  in  the  early  morn- 
ing— "  he  said  with  a  wave  of  his  hand  toward  the  road. 
"The  sun  was  just  coming  up  and  we  walked  along  in 
the  glow  of  the  sky.  Bare-footed,  you  know — I  thought 
of  the  martyrs!  We  had  an  archbishop  along  with  us — " 
He  said  that  as  you  might  have  said,  "We  had  Johnny 
along  with  us."  .  .  .  "You  know,  it's  very  pleasant  at 
that  hour.  Several  of  us  were  going  out  to  say  a  mass  in 
the  Catacombs  and  we  all  walked  along  singing  hymns — 
bare-footed — "  He  laughed.  "Just  like  the  martyrs!" 

The  bus  stopped  in  front  of  a  plain  little  church  with 
a  dusty  white  plaster  facade.  Danny  said  they  were  to 
get  out  and  go  inside.  Sarah  was  glad  he  gave  her  his 
arm  to  lean  on,  for  she  had  not  even  yet  got  over  the 
nervous  feeling  she  had  about  going  into  Catholic 
churches.  Not  that  she  expected  anything  dreadful  to 
happen — of  course  not!  But  she  felt  as  though  God  were 
watching  her. 

Inside  the  church  it  smelled  of  wax  and  garlic.  The 
white  walls  looked  strange,  though  they  were  ordinary; 
but  the  candles  burning  in  bright  clusters  warmed  them 

286 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

and  hid  their  squalor.  The  uneasiness  that  troubled 
Sarah  increased  as  she  glanced  about.  The  sight  of  a 
woman  with  a  pinched  sorrowful  face,  dressed  in  black 
and  kneeling  before  one  of  the  shrines,  affected  her  with 
a  kind  of  shock.  She  was  used  to  making  her  supplica- 
tions to  God  in  the  decent  privacy  of  a  church  pew,  and 
she  thought  she  never  could  get  used  to  the  foreigner's 
ways  of  worshipping  and  love-making  in  public,  not  even 
if  she  lived  over  here.  When  she  saw  Danny  go  down  on 
his  knees  and  make  the  sign  of  the  cross  she  began  to 
tremble  queerly.  A  nameless  emotion  burst  from  her 
heart  and  she  wanted  to  cry  out,  "My  son!  O  my  son!" 

Thomas  came  and  stood  close  to  her,  and  she  put  her 
hand  in  his.  The  bus  conductor  came  in,  followed  by 
the  rest  of  the  party,  and  when  he  had  got  them  all 
around  him  he  began  to  speak  an  oration  about  the 
church.  The  priest  who  had  talked  to  her  in  the  bus  was 
standing  in  the  group,  and  she  saw  him  turn  away  with  a 
shrug,  as  much  as  to  say,  "That's  all  nonsense!" 

"Come  this  way!"  Danny  called  to  them.  He  took 
hold  of  Sarah's  arm  and  Thomas's  other  one,  and  walk- 
ing between  them  guided  them  to  a  spot  where  there 
was  a  little  iron  cross  standing  up  in  the  stone  floor. 
"Look!"  he  said,  pointing  to  the  floor.  They  both  looked, 
and  saw  the  perfect  imprint  of  a  human  foot  graven  in 
the  stone. 

"You  know  the  story?"  Danny  asked,  looking  from 
one  to  the  other.  "This  is  where  Our  Lord  met  Peter 
as  He  was  going  out  from  Rome,  and  that  is  the  spot 
where  He  stood.  There  you  see  His  footprints — there 
are  two  of  them,  one  a  little  fainter — left  behind  in  the 
stone.  Of  course  you  can  believe  it  or  not — as  you  like. 
But  there  is  the  proof!  Can  you  stand  on  a  piece  of 
granite  in  your  bare  feet  and  make  an  impression  like 
that?  Of  course  not!  I  say  there's  no  question  about  it — 
it's  a  fact  that  can't  be  denied.  Peter  said  to  Our  Lord, 

287 


The  Apostate 

4 Quo  vadis?  Quo  vadis — where  are  you  going?'  And 
Our  Lord  replied,  'I'm  going  forth  to  suffer  again  because 
thou  art  going  away  from  Rome '" 

Sarah  bent  forward  to  see.  Thomas  exclaimed, 
"Humph!  Well!"  Hand  in  hand  they  stood  together 
in  wonder,  gazing  down  at  the  divine  mark. 

"Quo  vadis — where  are  you  going?"  Danny  repeated 
it  like  a  chant,  like  an  invocation.  It  seemed  to  Sarah 
his  voice  sang  with  a  passionate  tenderness  that  smote 
her  strangely;  and  Thomas  stood  ill  at  ease,  fingering  his 
hat. 

"There  it  is,  you  see — you'd  better  kiss  it  before  you 

?? 

o 

"Yes — oh,  yes!"  she  cried,  too  much  moved  to  say 
more.  Thomas  murmured,  "Oh,  sure!" 

Danny  knelt  down  and  touched  his  lips  to  the  stone. 
Dismayed,  she  clung  tighter  to  Thomas's  hand — and 
while  her  son  stood  by,  whipping  her  on  with  his  un- 
bending will,  impeded  by  her  stoutness  she  stooped  and 
did  as  he  commanded  her.  Thomas  came  down  stiffly 
on  one  knee  beside  her. 

Out-of-doors  the  sun  was  bright,  too  bright — it  made 
black  spots  come  before  Sarah's  eyes.  Thomas  blinked 
and  rubbed  his.  The  priest  who  had  argued  before  got 
into  the  bus  beside  him,  and  remarked,  "Of  course,  that's 
not  an  article  of  dogma — it's  a  tradition.  But  it  could 
have  been.  He  could  have  done  it —  He  might  even 
have  done  it  deliberately.  Over  here  I  have  seen  many 
things  I  never  expected  to  see.  A  piece  of  the  true  cross, 
a  fragment  of  the  cross  of  the  good  thief — three  of  the 
nails  from  the  cross  of  Our  Lord,  and  two  thorns " 

It  was  all  very  marvellous.  Thomas  agreed  with  the 
priest.  But  you  couldn't  be  sure  it  was  true  unless  you 
had  faith.  His  own  faith  didn't  cover  quite  as  much  as 
that — not  by  a  good  deal!  But  what  was  that  fellow 

288 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

always  putting  in  his  oar  for?  He  didn't  exactly  trust 
'em,  those  priests. 

A  monk  in  a  brown  robe,  sandals  on  his  bare  feet,  led 
them  through  the  Catacombs.  He  was  an  old  man  and 
he  had  a  wan  sad  face,  and  a  long  gray  beard  which  gave 
him  an  early  Christian  appearance.  Now  and  then  when 
he  was  speaking,  his  voice  would  die  away  and  he  seemed 
to  forget  what  he  was  saying,  but  his  dreaming  eyes 
looked  to  be  full  of  memories.  He  addressed  everything 
he  said  to  Danny.  Sarah  and  Thomas  didn't  mind  that — 
didn't  mind  not  understanding.  Danny  translated  every- 
thing promptly,  and  it  made  them  feel  pleased  and  proud 
to  hear  him  reply  to  the  monk  in  Italian. 

It  was  chilly  in  the  passages,  and  black  dark.  The 
brother  handed  them  each  a  wax  taper  to  light  their  way. 
When  they  came  to  the  place  where  the  infants  had  been 
entombed  in  the  rock  wall,  Sarah  was  suddenly  overcome 
with  misery  and  panic  at  the  thought  of  how  little  they 
were  to  suffer  in  that  grim  place.  And  she  asked  herself, 
how  could  people  do  the  cruel,  wicked  things  the  Romans 
had  done?  Once  they  heard  voices  ahead  of  them  and 
saw  the  tapers  of  another  party  moving  up  through  the 
gloom,  a  poor  little  glow  bobbing  about  precariously  in 
the  choking  dark.  Presently  the  corridor  broadened  out 
into  a  chamber  where,  in  a  recess  behind  a  grill,  several 
candles  were  burning  on  an  altar  that  held  some  bits  of 
vestments  under  glass.  The  candles  shed  their  yellow 
light  upon  a  woman's  figure,  on  a  bier  in  front  of  the  altar. 
The  face  frozen  in  youthful  innocence  seemed  moulded 
of  moonlight,  an  expression  rapt  of  the  moon  lying  like 
frost  upon  the  marbled  features,  the  high  arched  nose 
thinned  and  sculptured  by  death. 

"Oh!"  Sarah  drew  back,  uttering  a  soft  scream. 

"It's  all  right — nothing  to  be  afraid  of,"  said  Danny, 
genuflecting  and  crossing  himself.  "That's  only  a  plaster 


cast." 


289 


The  Apostate 

Thomas  coughed  in  relieved  embarrassment. 

Fearfully  they  went  up  to  the  bier  and  looked  into 
the  face.  It  seemed  impossible  even  yet  that  the  likeness 
of  martyred  flesh  was  plaster,  the  cold  moon-color  of 
the  features  but  the  reflection  of  candle-light  in  a  hollow 
cave.  This  was  the  tomb  of  Saint  Cecelia. 

Holding  his  taper  high  to  throw  the  light  farther,  Danny 
told  them  the  story  of  Saint  Cecelia — how  she  was  the 
daughter  of  a  Roman  noble  family  and  was  betrothed 
by  her  heathen  parents  to  a  Roman  youth  named  Valerian, 
and  how,  filled  with  her  influence,  her  parents  became 
Christians  and  Valerian  suffered  martyrdom.  Danny's 
eyes  were  lit  with  a  strange  dark  fire,  and  as  he  related 
the  frightful  defamations  to  which  the  beautiful  body 
of  Saint  Cecelia  was  subjected  his  voice  rang  with  a  fervor 
that  seemed  to  lift  him  to  some  tremendous  climax  of 
transcendent  feeling.  One  could  believe  that  his  own  veins 
took  fire  with  the  agony  and  the  rapture  of  the  Roman 
girl's  martyrdom. 

"She  was  just  a  slip  of  a  girl!  Frail,  and  lovely,  and 
afraid — afraid  of  the  soldiers — "  With  a  swift  movement 
he  raised  his  hands;  the  knuckles  showed  white.  "They 
must  have  torn  her  white  flesh — they  probably  violated 
her — "  His  body  tense,  he  seemed  about, to  throw  him- 
self forward  upon  some  invisible  form.  His  face  was 
very  pale.  Then  he  took  a  step  backward  and  dropped 
his  hands.  "Just  a  slip  of  a  girl " 

"For  a  long  time — a  great  many  ages — "  he  went  on 
with  the  story,  "her  body  was  lost.  It  disappeared  and 
couldn't  be  found.  But  finally  it  was  recovered,  and 
then — "  He  lowered  his  voice  significantly.  "It  was 
found  to  be  absolutely  uncorrupted — absolutely  uncor- 
rupted!"  The  word  "uncorrupted"  had  a  pulpy  sound 
as  he  uttered  it,  as  if  it  came  from  under  his  tongue. 
And  he  repeated  it  with  a  kind  of  joy,  as  though  it  sig- 
nified for  him  a  supreme  and  secret  ecstasy. 

290 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

His  voice  pealing  forth  in  the  weird  dusk  woke  an  old 
echo  in  Sarah's  heart.  Strange,  how  familiar!  And  then 
she  remembered  those  tones — Thomas,  in  the  days 
of  their  courtship,  had  used  them  speaking  to  her  of 
love.  Momentarily  her  youth  returned  upon  her,  and  a 
warm  flush  streamed  down  her  throat  under  the  neck 
of  her  dress.  Love  had  seemed  (such  a  horrifying  thing. 
But  there  are  things  in  life  that  don't  seem  real  or  right 
until  you  have  accepted  them,  and  then  you  wonder 
how  they  could  have  been  anything  but  natural. 

A  wild  excitement  shone  in  Danny's  eyes,  and  his 
face — so  pale — made  her  again  afraid  for  him.  He  lived 
too  much  on  his  nerves — ah,  that  was  it! — and  too  much 
alone.  Some  way  it  injures  folks  to  have  too  much  of  one 
thing,  be  it  religion,  getting  rich,  or  love.  As  a  boy  he 
was  restless,  in  the  house  and  out — he  couldn't  settle  to 
anything.  And  Thomas  was  strict  with  him — wouldn't 
have  him  dawdling  about  when  there  was  work  to  do. 
Once  she  had  found  him  out  in  the  barn,  sitting  humped 
over  on  the  stool  beside  the  cow  he  had  been  milking — 
the  cow  switching  her  tail,  disgruntled,  and  rumbling  to 
herself;  the  milk  pail  standing  only  a  quarter  full.  He'd 
been  crying.  .  .  .  "What  is  it?  What  trouble  have  you 
got,  my  son?"  She  did  not  often  show  feeling.  But  the 
sight  of  his  distress  afflicted  her  keenly.  She  folded  her 
arms  around  him,  half  lifting  him  from  the  stool;  and  for 
an  instant  he  laid  his  face  against  her  bosom.  In  silence 
they  stayed  so,  his  head  pressed  in  to  her  shoulder;  and 
it  seemed  her  very  self  that  she  held  there  clasped  in  a 
tight  embrace,  her  separate  flesh  united  mysteriously 
with  his,  melted  in  compassionate  love.  The  mare  began 
munching  straw  in  the  next  stall,  and  as  though  that 
external  sound  put  an  end  to  their  communion,  a  single 
sob  burst  from  him — an  uncouth,  terrifying  sound.  "Oh, 
mother — I  want  something — I  don't  know  what!"  And 
she  never  knew,  either,  what  that  desire  was.  But  she 

291 


The  Apostate 

remembered  she,  too,  once  had  felt  a  yearning  after  some- 
thing, nameless  and  unattainable.  The  feeling  was  gone 
before  she  could  identify  it,  displaced  by  other  feelings; 
for  then  she  met  Thomas  and  married  him. 

She  drew  her  breath  in  a  deep,  slow  sigh.  That  instant 
she  felt  a  touch  of  heart-burn.  It  must  be  the  heat — 
and  all  this  going — she  wasn't  used  to  it.  She  reached 
in  her  hand-bag  for  her  little  bottle  of  soda-mints,  and 
poured  a  heap  of  the  tablets  into  her  palm.  Swallowing  one, 
she  put  the  others  back  and  corked  up  the  bottle  again. 

Danny  motioned  to  the  brother,  and  led  the  way  out 
of  the  dusk-filled  chamber  again  into  swallowing  dark- 
ness. "Better  go  along  now!  You  can  spend  all  sorts  of 
time  in  these  places,  but  you've  got  to  pack " 

They  groped  through  black  corridors,  airless  and  dank, 
and  inhospitable  as  a  grave.  Sarah  was  afraid  of  falling. 
Danny  held  her  arm,  but  she  stumbled  several  times 
before  they  got  outside.  They  had  a  moment  to  wait  for 
the  bus.  An  ancient  vehicle  it  was,  and  subject  to  spasms 
of  exploding  noise.  They  bumped  forward,  nearly  thrown 
off  the  seats,  a  cloud  of  dust  kicked  up  behind  which 
whitened  the  grass  along  the  edges  of  the  road.  Then 
the  bus  took  a  run  of  speed,  like  a  young  horse  going  to 
take  a  hurdle.  But  the  leap  didn't  come,  and  presently 
they  drew  up  outside  a  trattoria.  The  driver  got  down 
to  get  himself  a  drink. 

Danny  asked  if  they  wouldn't  like  something.  "Wa- 
ter— or  lemonade?" 

"Anything'll  suit  me,  so  it's  wet — "  Thomas  declared. 
"I  never  was  so  plumb  dry  in  my  life." 

"Lemonade's  good  to  quench  thirst,"  Sarah  said. 
"That's  what  I'll  have." 

"Make  it  three,  then.  Hey!  Wait  a  minute — "Thomas 
grabbed  in  his  pocket  for  some  coins. 

"Oh,  that's  all  right — "  Danny  started  off.  But  Thomas 
wouldn't  allow  it. 

292 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

"You're  crazy,  boy — keep  your  money!" 

In  a  minute  Danny  came  back  and  announced,  "He 
wants  a  lira  each — I  think  it's  too  much " 

But  Thomas  laughed.  Out  of  a  great  guffaw  he  said, 
"Sure,  go  ahead — I  guess  a  nickel  won't  break  me  up!" 
Still  chuckling,  when  Danny  had  gone  he  turned  to  Sarah. 
"What  do  you  think  of  that!" 

She  shook  her  head,  smiling.  But  she  knew.  She  knew 
it  was  because  he  didn't  have  the  money  to  spend.  Regret- 
fully, she  tried  to  remember  whether  they  had  let  him 
pay  any  of  the  admissions  to  the  places  he  had  taken 
them.  She  hoped  not,  but  she  couldn't  be  sure.  He  was 
so  quick  at  attending  to  things.  She  guessed  Thomas 
could  spare  a  bit  of  money  to  leave  with  him — five  dollars 
or  so  would  at  least  buy  him  some  warm  gloves  for  the 
winter.  He  used  to  suffer  because  his  hands  got  so  cold. 
And  people  said  it  was  a  disagreeable  climate  in  Rome 
in  the  wintertime — the  dampness  was  the  thing. 

"He's  learned  a  thing  or  two.  He's  learned  how  to 
hold  on  to  his  money,  all  right!  He'll  get  along !" 

They  exchanged  glances,  their  faces  softly  aglow  with 
admiration  of  his  shining  qualities.  Their  splendid  son! 
Then  Thomas's  countenance  turned  sober. 

"Say — do  you  suppose  they  give  'em  enough  to  eat 
in  that  place?" 

"What  place?" 

"I'm  talking  about  that  seminary!"  He  didn't  know 
why  he  was  suddenly  angry.  But  he  thought  she  knew — 
well  enough — what  place  he  meant.  "You  know,  these 
Catholics  are  great  on  fasting — I  thought,  maybe " 

She  had  the  same  thought.  Maybe,  in  the  interests  of 
piety,  his  body  was  not  being  cared  for. 

Danny  came  out  of  the  trattoria  carrying  the  lemon- 
ades, straws  sticking  up  in  the  glasses.  But  there  were 
only  two. 

"Where's  yours?"  Thomas  asked  quickly. 

293 


The  Apostate 

"Thanks,  I'm  not  going  to  take  any — I  had  some 
water  inside.  Here's  your  change " 

"I  don't  want  it." 

"It's  your  change,  Father " 

"I  said  I  don't  want  it — "  He  was  shouting  now. 
"Don't  give  me  any  more  of  that  tin  money!" 

In  his  impatience  he  struck  Danny's  hand  that  held 
the  money,  knocking  a  two-lira  piece  to  the  ground.  It 
jingled  on  the  pavement.  "Lot  of  foolishness!"  he  mut- 
tered under  his  breath.  Danny  stooped  and  picked  up  the 
two-lira  piece,  and  dropped  it  carefully  into  his  pocket. 

The  Roman  dusk  was  coming  down — the  rich,  fanci- 
ful, gold-brown  dusk  that  spreads  over  the  darkening 
olive  trees  a  mauve  obscurity  and  blackens  the  pines, 
stooping  gaunt  on  the  yellow  rim  of  eternity.  Swallows 
were  going  to  and  fro  overhead,  dashing  against  the 
eaves  and  dropping  their  faint  twitterings. 

Danny  leaned  back,  sucking  air  into  his  lungs.  There 
was  a  pain  in  his  chest.  He  drew  his  lips  into  a  rigid, 
tight  line  to  stop  the  pain.  Words  came  into  his  mind — 
"the  Power  and  the  Glory" — and  he  felt  them  in  his 
blood  like  a  canticle.  He  looked  away  at  the  Sabine  Hills, 
loping  along  with  the  motion  of  the  bus  like  a  procession 
of  gray  rabbits  on  the  horizon,  hopping  one  behind  another 
endlessly;  and  he  grew  aware  of  an  exultation  in  his  soul, 
concocted  of  some  subtle  chemistry  of  atmosphere. 
Something  acrid  and  sharp,  yet  sweetly  disturbing.  He 
often  felt  that  at  this  hour,  in  Rome.  He  felt  as  if  his 
naked  body  were  enveloped  in  a  burning,  transfiguring 
light.  To  be  near  that  light,  seared  and  uplifted  by  it 
forever,  was  the  utmost  desire  of  his  soul. 

He  remembered  his  childhood,  that  wintry  time  of 
toil  spent  in  a  harsh  endeavor  to  make  the  earth  give 
up  its  fruits.  And  he  recoiled  from  the  memory  as  he 
had  done  from  the  haunted  emptiness  of  the  life  he  had 

294 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

had  to  lead.  He  saw  himself  a  small  boy  in  patched 
overalls,  going  unwillingly  between  the  new  furrows  to 
drop  in  the  seed.  How  bitterly  then  he  had  felt  the 
binding  village  horizon  shut  down  upon  his  straining 
spirit  like  some  immense  lid  screwed  down  from  the  sky! 
Beyond  that  horizon  he  had  thought  there  must  be  a 
place  where  it  was  possible  to  gain  the  things  his  mind 
visioned  as  so  richly  desirable — splendor  and  power  and 
ceremony,  and  the  purity  of  God.  The  books  he  read, 
though  not  many,  were  as  wings  that  admitted  him  to 
the  huge  inviting  realm  encircling  the  mean  restricted 
world  he  moved  in.  He  read  them  lying  up  aloft  in  the 
hay,  in  moments  filched  from  the  chores — books  about 
the  missionaries  of  God  who  converted  idolaters  and  kings. 
When  no  one  was  by  he  used  to  take  them  from  the  shelf 
in  the  kitchen  that  was  between  the  brass  clock  and  the 
heavy  Bible  which  stood  uptilted,  clasped  in  a  metal 
holder,  feeling  queerly  ashamed  to  publish  his  preoccupa- 
tion with  the  mysteries  of  the  soul.  His  parents,  in  their 
simple  devout  minds,  at  first  had  seemed  pleased  with 
his  interest  in  unworldly  subjects;  but  soon  they  per- 
ceived in  such  things  an  encouragement  to  idleness,  and 
commanded  him  to  leave  books  alone  except  on  Sundays. 
He  felt  the  privacy  of  his  soul  ruthlessly  invaded  when 
his  father  ascended  to  the  hay-loft  and  discovered  him 
reading  on  a  week-day.  From  negligence  he  had  let  the 
pigs  get  into  the  beans  and  banquet,  to  their  agony  and 
his  humiliation,  upon  four  superb  rows  of  Kentucky 
Wonders.  It  was  the  one  time  in  his  life  his  father  had 
laid  a  hand  on  him,  but  the  memory  of  it  still  was  obses- 
sionally  horrifying.  He  had  but  to  turn  and  walk  away 
and  his  father,  a  physically  small  man  though  wiry, 
would  not  have  been  able  to  use  force  on  him.  But  some 
other  subtler,  inexplicable  force  rendered  him  powerless 
to  defy  his  father;  and  so  he  stood  up  and  let  himself  be 
whipped. 

295 


The  Apostate 

Mysterious  power  that  the  physical  personality  wields 
over  minds  in  conflict!  But  he  had  broken  out  of  that 
bondage.  The  day  that  Father  Connolly  came  into  his 
life  he  had  ceased  to  feel  himself  in  subjection  to  any 
authority  outside  himself,  save  only  Divine  Authority. 
A  lad  of  seventeen  he  was  then,  and  the  priest  came 
walking  around  a  bend  in  the  road.  He  marched  up  to 
Danny — on  his  way  into  town  with  the  calf  to  be  sold — 
and  inquired  how  far  it  was  to  a  place  called  Quimby. 
He  had  never  heard  of  Quimby  nor  any  such  place,  but 
he  offered  the  priest  a  lift  into  town — and  it  was  just  like 
taking  a  ride  with  his  destiny  beside  him!  A  magisterial, 
inspired  man  was  Father  Connolly,  possessed  of  an  elo- 
quence that  could  conquer  anything.  A  stranger  appari- 
tion than  a  figure  of  a  Roman  priest  was  hardly  to  be 
found  upon  a  New  England  highway.  But  out  of  oddities 
and  strangeness  have  sprung  many  of  God's  most  cunning 
miracles — what  is  incredible  to  heretics  and  blind  men 
is  to  the  man  of  faith  the  most  immaculate,  the  only  true 
reality.  When  the  priest  went  away  he  left  with  him  a 
crucifix  and  a  breviary. 

He  saw  ahead  now  the  city  coming  into  view,  its  domes 
phantasmagorial  in  the  dusk.  Watching  the  houses  grow 
upon  the  skyline,  he  felt  that  the  memory  of  his  childhood 
stirred  in  him  nothing  but  a  sense  of  bitter  alienation. 
He  turned  and  looked  at  the  old  man  sitting  beside  him, 
dressed  in  out-moded  clothes  of  some  thick  material 
and  having  about  him  a  scrubby,  formal,  old-fashioned 
gentility;  and  he  felt  strange  to  his  own  flesh  and  blood  in 
his  parents.  What  was  it,  he  asked  himself,  that  divided 
flesh  from  flesh?  What  made  the  difference?  What  had 
opened  this  immeasurable  gulf  between  their  lives  and 
his,  between  their  passions  and  his  passions?  He  did  not 
know.  He  only  knew  he  would  be  glad  to  be  alone  again 
when  his  parents  had  gone  from  Rome — quite  alone.  It 
was  distracting,  the  obligation  to  look  after  the  old  people 

296 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

and  find  them  entertainment.  Their  mute  boundless 
affection,  which  he  felt  unable  to  reciprocate,  was  burden- 
some. 

"Look  here !" 

His  father's  voice  dropped  into  his  thought  like  a  stone 
falling  into  a  still  pool;  and  with  the  sound  in  his  ears  his 
broken  thought  went  rippling  and  curveting  away  to  the 
covert  quarters  of  his  mind.  He  answered,  "What?" 

Thomas  had  been  nerving  himself  to  put  a  question; 
but  now  that  he  had  it  on  the  end  of  his  tongue  he  didn't 
know  what  to  do  with  it.  He  wished  he  might  fling  it 
away  somewhere,  where  it  wouldn't  be  found.  All  the 
same,  he  wanted  to  know  for  sure.  Sarah  and  he  had 
tackled  it  in  secret.  He  cleared  his  throat  and  went  for 
it  now,  adopting  a  voice  that  proclaimed  him  the  head  of 
the  family. 

"Er-ah — you've  been  three  years  over  here.  I  suppose 
you'll  be  getting  through  soon  and  coming  home?" 

Danny  turned,  instantly  resenting  it  that  his  father 
should  use  such  a  tone  with  him.  As  though  he  were  a 
lad  in  college!  Then  it  flashed  through  his  mind  that  the 
old  man  probably  meant  this  as  a  slight  to  his  religion. 
They  never  would  learn  not  to  bring  up  that  subject.  He 
was  sorry  if  it  was  painful  to  them,  but  he  didn't  see  how 
he  could  help  it.  He  was  not  going  to  discuss  his  faith 
with  them.  He  thought  what  his  faith  was  to  him,  and 
he  wondered  at  other  people's  weak  beliefs. 

In  that  moment,  he  felt  his  isolation  acutely.  He  could 
not  live  in  his  own  country,  and  he  was  out  of  sympathy 
with  his  time.  An  exile,  lost  out  of  time,  stranded  among 
a  race  of  aliens  who  were  hostile  to  him — his  soul  was 
swept  by  nostalgic  passions  that  resisted  human  ties. 
He  felt  as  though  a  wintry  blast,  cold  and  lonely,  had 
rushed  at  the  windows  of  his  spirit.  He  knew  himself 
cut  off.  Then  it  struck  him  that  such  had  always  been 

297 


The  Apostate 

the  lot  of  the  Church's  people,  to  be  reviled  and  misunder- 
stood. And  all  at  once  his  feeling  changed;  he  felt  uplifted 
again,  exhilarated  by  pride  and  resistance  and  a  pas- 
sionate self-assurance.  His  soul  was  as  a  mediaeval  gar- 
rison having  contempt  for  the  besieging  enemy,  exulting 
confidently  in  the  power  behind  four  walls  to  endure 
forever.  He  felt  that  he  understood  his  destiny,  that  his 
personal  relation  to  destiny  was  a  secret  matter  between 
him  and  his  Creator,  and  he  was  even  glad  that  others 
understood  it  not — scornfully  glad  to  be  alone  as  he  was, 
because  it  gave  him  a  superior  strength.  His  feeling 
cleaved  to  the  teaching  of  religion  that  this  strength 
comes  from  God,  and  it  made  him  incapable  of  perceiving 
that  God's  strength  is  in  the  hearts  of  men.  As  he  turned 
and  faced  his  parents  now,  thinking  of  their  wish  to  draw 
him  and  bind  him  to  them,  his  heart  was  choked  with  ice. 

"When  are  you  coming  home?" 

"I'm  not  coming  home,"  he  replied  coldly.  "My  work 
is  over  here.  I  have  no  other  home  but  in  that " 

"Eh?" 

Thomas  heard  the  words.  But  his  mind  cast  them 
back  in  his  ears  where  they  simply  rattled  without  sense. 
The  blood  rushed  to  his  head  and  he  was  conscious  only 
of  an  overwhelming  fury  that  hummed  about  his  ears, 
an  enveloping  rage  against  what  he  did  not  know. 

"So,  that's  it!   Oh— well " 

But  he  could  not  get  command  of  his  voice  to  speak 
because  his  thought  was  incoherent,  pitching  about  in 
the  darkness  of  his  mind  like  a  ship  stricken  in  a  tempest. 
He  did  not  know  what  he  thought.  But  more  than  any- 
thing else  in  life — the  bit  of  life  that  remained  to  him — 
he  wanted  his  son  at  home  again.  He  was  suddenly  bit- 
terly conscious  of  his  age.  That  was  true — he  was  an  old 
man  now,  and  he  needed  his  son.  Soon  he  would  have  to 
give  up  altogether.  And  when  his  time  came,  it  would 
be  hard  to  go  out  with  his  son  not  by.  His  only  son  was 

298 


Lillian  Barnard  Gilkes 

stripped  from,  him  and  given  to  God.  What  for,  he 
thought,  what  for?  His  mind  was  full  of  blasphemy.  For 
the  first  time  in  his  life  he  doubted  there  was  a  God  in 
heaven.  He  could  not  reconcile  the  two  things — a  Heav- 
enly Father  and  the  loss  of  his  son.  But  he  was  a  religious 
man  instinctively,  an  old  man  besides,  and  used  to  be- 
lieving. Whatever  was  done  to  him  he  could  no  more 
cease  to  have  faith  in  the  Might  of  God,  whose  benev- 
olence it  was  not  permitted  men  to  question,  than  he 
could  call  back  his  youth  and  begin  his  life  over.  He 
sighed  heavily;  his  head  dropped  forward.  But  his  son 
thought  he  was  only  moving  his  position  on  the  seat 
against  the  jolting  of  the  bus. 

Sarah  started,  hearing  those  blasting  words  spoken 
in  her  son's  voice,  "not  coming  home."  How  could  he 
say  such  a  thing  to  his  father  and  mother,  that  he  had 
no  home!  Had  he  no  love,  then,  for  the  home  of  his 
people?  Oh,  why  was  it  given  to  a  woman  to  bear  children 
and  they  to  leave  their  parents  comfortless  in  their  old 
age?  A  sharp  sound  between  a  gasp  and  a  moan  came 
from  her  throat,  and  leaning  forward,  not  to  miss  any 
word  of  what  was  so  incredible  and  painful,  her  groping 
hand  came  against  Thomas's  knee.  His  hand  closed  over 
hers. 

And  Thomas  remembered  Job.  He  remembered  it 
was  the  fate  of  old  men,  one  way  or  another,  to  lose  their 
sons.  He  pressed  Sarah's  hand,  and  in  that  moment 
something  struck  him,  the  first  scourge  of  that  pain  they 
would  endure  the  rest  of  their  lives  together  in  the  loss 
of  their  living  son. 

"Why  should  I  go  back  to  America?"  Danny,  his 
voice  tense  with  frigid  passion,  was  speaking  to  them 
both.  "What  is  America  to  me?  The  life  there  has  be- 
come so  utterly  material — people  cutting  one  another's 
throats  for  gain — I  feel  choked  at  the  thought  of  it!  I 

299 


The  Apostate 

can  understand  the  bitterness  in  the  Master's  heart  when 
he  wept  over  Jerusalem.  I — "  He  struck  himself  on  the 
breast.  "I — have  felt  that!" 

Thomas  raised  his  eyes  and  looked  timidly  into  his 
son's  face.  His  head  felt  heavy,  and  there  was  a  queer 
trembling  in  his  neck. 

"All  I  want  to  know  is — if  you're  happy  over  here — 
that's  all  I  want  to  know " 

Danny's  face  which  had  been  radiant  clouded  momen- 
tarily. He  was  gazing  in  front  of  him  with  a  fixed,  wild 
stare.  Then  a  light  blazed  up  in  his  eyes  which  became  a 
look  of  reckless  passion. 

"Happy — yes,  I'm  happy !" 

The  old  people,  still  with  hands  clasped,  looked  again 
at  their  son.  Their  eyes  strove  to  penetrate  behind  the 
impassive  pale  features  to  the  inexplicable  purpose  nestled 
within  his  brain.  But  only  the  physical  countenance 
they  had  created  out  of  their  bodies  met  their  gaze — an 
aloof  set  of  features  that  no  longer  confided  the  intimate 
processes  of  their  son's  life. 

They  turned  away  their  eyes  to  the  dusty,  disordered 
plain  spreading  back  from  the  road,  with  the  dim  gray 
ghosts  of  the  Sabine  Hills  trailing  behind  in  the  distance. 
They  heard  the  swallows  speaking  together  from  the 
house-tops. 


300 


THE  ALTAR  OF  THE  DEAD 

by 
Henry  James 


HENRY  JAMES  (1843-1916),  though  his  distinguished 
place  in  American  letters  has  never  been  questioned  was 
somewhat  less  highly  regarded  for  some  years  after  his  death 
than  he  is  now  (1936).  His  reputation  has  revived  surpris- 
ingly as  a  result  of  the  interest  displayed  in  his  ideas  and  his 
technique  by  young  writers  whose  sympathies  are  quite  as 
likely  to  be  radical  as  conservative.  See  for  example  Stephen 
Spender's  The  Destructive  Element  (1935)  and  the  Henry 
James  number  of  Hound  and  Horn  (April- June  1934). 


THE  ALTAR  OF  THE  DEAD 

I 

HE  had  a  mortal  dislike,  poor  Stransom,  to  lean 
anniversaries,  and  loved  them  still  less  when  they 
made  a  pretence  of  a  figure.  Celebrations  and  sup- 
pressions were  equally  painful  to  him,  and  but  one  of  the 
former  found  a  place  in  his  life.  He  had  kept  each  year  in 
his  own  fashion  the  date  of  Mary  Antrim's  death.  It 
would  be  more  to  the  point  perhaps  to  say  that  this  occa- 
sion kept  him:  it  kept  him  at  least  effectually  from  doing 
anything  else.  It  took  hold  of  him  again  and  again  with  a 
hand  of  which  time  had  softened  but  never  loosened  the 
touch.  He  waked  to  his  feast  of  memory  as  consciously  as 
he  would  have  waked  to  his  marriage-morn.  Marriage  had 
had  of  old  but  too  little  to  say  to  the  matter:  for  the  girl 
who  was  to  have  been  his  bride  there  had  been  no  bridal 
embrace.  She  had  died  of  a  malignant  fever  after  the 
wedding-day  had  been  fixed,  and  he  had  lost  before  fairly 
tasting  it  an  affection  that  promised  to  fill  his  life  to  the 
brim. 

Of  that  benediction,  however,  it  would  have  been  false 
to  say  this  life  could  really  be  emptied:  it  was  still  ruled 
by  a  pale  ghost,  still  ordered  by  a  sovereign  presence.  He 
had  not  been  a  man  of  numerous  passions,  and  even  in  all 
these  years  no  sense  had  grown  stronger  with  him  than  the 
sense  of  being  bereft.  He  had  needed  no  priest  and  no 
altar  to  make  him  for  ever  widowed.  He  had  done  many 
things  in  the  world — he  had  done  almost  all  but  one:  he 
had  never,  never  forgotten.  He  had  tried  to  put  into  his 
existence  whatever  else  might  take  up  room  in  it,  but  had 

From  Terminations,  by  Henry  James.    Copyright  by  Harper  &  Brothers, 
New  York,  and  reprinted  by  permission  of  Harper  &  Brothers. 

303 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

failed  to  make  it  more  than  a  house  of  which  the  mistress 
was  eternally  absent.  She  was  most  absent  of  all  on  the 
recurrent  December  day  that  his  tenacity  set  apart.  He 
had  no  arranged  observance  of  it,  but  his  nerves  made  it 
all  their  own.  They  drove  him  forth  without  mercy,  and 
the  goal  of  his  pilgrimage  was  far.  She  had  been  buried  in  a 
London  suburb,  a  part  then  of  Nature's  breast,  but  which 
he.  had  seen  lose  one  after  another  every  feature  of  fresh- 
ness. It  was  in  truth  during  the  moments  he  stood  there 
that  his  eyes  beheld  the  place  least.  They  looked  at  an- 
other image,  they  opened  to  another  light.  Was  it  a 
credible  future?  Was  it  an  incredible  past?  Whatever  the 
answer  it  was  an  immense  escape  from  the  actual. 

It's  true  that  if  there  weren't  other  dates  than  this  there 
were  other  memories;  and  by  the  time  George  Stransom 
was  fifty-five  such  memories  had  greatly  multiplied.  There 
were  other  ghosts  in  his  life  than  the  ghost  of  Mary  Antrim. 
He  had  perhaps  not  had  more  losses  than  most  men,  but  he 
had  counted  his  losses  more;  he  hadn't  seen  death  more 
closely,  but  had  in  a  manner  felt  it  more  deeply.  He  had 
formed  little  by  little  the  habit  of  numbering  his  Dead:  it 
had  come  to  him  early  in  life  that  there  was  something  one 
had  to  do  for  them.  They  were  there  in  their  simplified 
intensified  essence,  their  conscious  absence  and  expressive 
patience,  as  personally  there  as  if  they  had  only  been 
stricken  dumb.  When  all  sense  of  them  failed,  all  sound  of 
them  ceased,  it  was  as  if  their  purgatory  were  really  still 
on  earth:  they  asked  so  little  that  they  got,  poor  things, 
even  less,  and  died  again,  died  every  day,  of  the  hard 
usage  of  life.  They  had  no  organised  service,  no  reserved 
place,  no  honour,  no  shelter,  no  safety.  Even  ungenerous 
people  provided  for  the  living,  but  even  those  who  were 
called  most  generous  did  nothing  for  the  others.  So  on 
George  S transom's  part  had  grown  up  with  the  years  a 
resolve  that  he  at  least  would  do  something,  do  it,  that  is, 
for  his  own — would  perform  the  great  charity  without 

304 


Henry  James 

reproach.   Every  man  had  his  own,  and  every  man  had,  to 
meet  this  charity,  the  ample  resources  of  the  soul. 

It  was  doubtless  the  voice  of  Mary  Antrim  that  spoke 
for  them  best;  as  the  years  at  any  rate  went  by  he  found 
himself  in  regular  communion  with  these  postponed  pen- 
sioners, those  whom  indeed  he  always  called  in  his  thoughts 
the  Others.  He  spared  them  the  moments,  he  organised  the 
charity.  Quite  how  it  had  risen  he  probably  never  could 
have  told  you,  but  what  came  to  pass  was  that  an  altar, 
such  as  was  after  all  within  everybody's  compass,  lighted 
with  perpetual  candles  and  dedicated  to  these  secret  rites, 
reared  itself  in  his  spiritual  spaces.  He  had  wondered  of 
old,  in  some  embarrassment,  whether  he  had  a  religion; 
being  very  sure,  and  not  a  little  content,  that  he  hadn't 
at  all  events  the  religion  some  of  the  people  he  had  known 
wanted  him  to  have.  Gradually  this  question  was  straight- 
ened out  for  him:  it  became  clear  to  him  that  the  religion 
instilled  by  his  earliest  consciousness  had  been  simply  the 
religion  of  the  Dead.  It  suited  his  inclination,  it  satisfied 
his  spirit,  it  gave  employment  to  his  piety.  It  answered  his 
love  of  great  offices,  of  a  solemn  and  splendid  ritual;  for  no 
shrine  could  be  more  bedecked  and  no  ceremonial  more 
stately  than  those  to  which  his  worship  was  attached.  He 
had  no  imagination  about  these  things  but  that  they  were 
accessible  to  anyone  who  should  feel  the  need  of  them.  The 
poorest  could  build  such  temples  of  the  spirit — could  make 
them  blaze  with  candles  and  smoke  with  incense,  make  them 
flush  with  pictures  and  flowers.  The  cost,  in  the  common 
phrase,  of  keeping  them  up  fell  wholly  on  the  generous  heart. 

II 

He  had  this  year,  on  the  eve  of  his  anniversary,  as 
happened,  an  emotion  not  unconnected  with  that  range  of 
feeling.  Walking  home  at  the  close  of  a  busy  day  he  was 
arrested  in  the  London  street  by  the  particular  effect  of  a 
shop-front  that  lighted  the  dull  brown  air  with  its  mer- 

305 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

cenary  grin  and  before  which  several  persons  were  gath- 
ered. It  was  the  window  of  a  jeweller  whose  diamonds  and 
sapphires  seemed  to  laugh,  in  flashes  like  high  notes  of 
sound,  with  the  mere  joy  of  knowing  how  much  more 
they  were  "worth"  than  most  of  the  dingy  pedestrians 
staring  at  them  from  the  other  side  of  the  pane.  Stransom 
lingered  long  enough  to  suspend,  in  a  vision,  a  string  of 
pearls  about  the  white  neck  of  Mary  Antrim,  and  then 
was  kept  an  instant  longer  by  the  sound  of  a  voice  he  knew. 
Next  him  was  a  mumbling  old  woman,  and  beyond  the  old 
woman  a  gentleman  with  a  lady  on  his  arm.  It  was  from 
him,  from  Paul  Creston,  the  voice  had  proceeded:  he  was 
talking  with  the  lady  of  some  precious  object  in  the  win- 
dow. Stransom  had  no  sooner  recognised  him  than  the  old 
woman  turned  away;  but  just  with  this  growth  of  opportu- 
nity came  a  felt  strangeness  that  stayed  him  in  the  very 
act  of  laying  his  hand  on  his  friend's  arm.  It  lasted  but 
the  instant,  only  that  space  sufficed  for  the  flash  of  a  wild 
question.  Was  not  Mrs.  Creston  dead? — the  ambiguity 
met  him  there  in  the  short  drop  of  her  husband's  voice,  the 
drop  conjugal,  if  it  ever  was,  and  in  the  way  the  two  figures 
leaned  to  each  other.  Creston,  making  a  step  to  look  at 
something  else,  came  nearer,  glanced  at  him,  started  and 
exclaimed — behaviour  the  effect  of  which  was  at  first  only 
to  leave  Stransom  staring,  staring  back  across  the  months 
at  the  different  face,  the  wholly  other  face,  the  poor  man 
had  shown  him  last,  the  blurred  ravaged  mask  bent  over 
the  open  grave  by  which  they  had  stood  together.  That 
son  of  affliction  wasn't  mourning  now;  he  detached  his  arm 
from  his  companion's  to  grasp  the  hand  of  the  older  friend. 
He  coloured  as  well  as  smiled  in  the  strong  light  of  the  shop 
when  Stransom  raised  a  tentative  hat  to  the  lady.  Stran- 
som had  just  time  to  see  she  was  pretty  before  he  found 
himself  gaping  at  a  fact  more  portentous.  "My  dear 
fellow,  let  me  make  you  acquainted  with  my  wife." 

Creston  had  blushed  and  stammered  over  it,  but  in  half 

306 


Henry  James 

a  minute,  at  the  rate  we  live  in  polite  society,  it  had  prac- 
tically become,  for  our  friend,  the  mere  memory  of  a  shock. 
They  stood  there  and  laughed  and  talked;  Stransom  had 
instantly  whisked  the  shock  out  of  the  way,  to  keep  it  for 
private  consumption.  He  felt  himself  grimace,  he  heard 
himself  exaggerate  the  proper,  but  was  conscious  of  turn- 
ing not  a  little  faint.  That  new  woman,  that  hired  per- 
former, Mrs.  Creston?  Mrs.  Creston  had  been  more  living 
for  him  than  any  woman  but  one.  This  lady  had  a  face 
that  shone  as  publicly  as  the  jeweller's  window,  and  in  the 
happy  candour  with  which  she  wore  her  monstrous  char- 
acter was  an  effect  of  gross  immodesty.  The  character  of 
Paul  Creston's  wife  thus  attributed  to  her  was  monstrous 
for  reasons  Stransom  could  judge  his  friend  to  know  per- 
fectly that  he  knew.  The  happy  pair  had  just  arrived  from 
America,  and  Stransom  hadn't  needed  to  be  told  this  to 
guess  the  nationality  of  the  lady.  Somehow  it  deepened 
the  foolish  air  that  her  husband's  confused  cordiality  was 
unable  to  conceal.  Stransom  recalled  that  he  had  heard  of 
poor  Creston's  having,  while  his  bereavement  was  still 
fresh,  crossed  the  sea  for  what  people  in  such  predicaments 
call  a  little  change.  He  had  found  the  little  change  indeed, 
he  had  brought  the  little  change  back;  it  was  the  little 
change  that  stood  there  and  that,  do  what  he  would,  he 
couldn't,  while  he  showed  those  high  front  teeth  of  his,  look 
other  than  a  conscious  ass  about.  They  were  going  into  the 
shop,  Mrs.  Creston  said,  and  she  begged  Mr.  Stransom  to 
come  with  them  and  help  to  decide.  He  thanked  her,  open- 
ing his  watch  and  pleading  an  engagement  for  which  he 
was  already  late,  and  they  parted  while  she  shrieked  into 
the  fog  "Mind  now  you  come  to  see  me  right  away!" 
Creston  had  had  the  delicacy  not  to  suggest  that,  and 
Stransom  hoped  it  hurt  him  somewhere  to  hear  her  scream 
it  to  all  the  echoes. 

He  felt  quite  determined,  as  he  walked  away,  never  in 
his  life  to  go  near  her.    She  was  perhaps  a  human  being, 

307 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

but  Creston  oughtn't  to  have  shown  her  without  precau- 
tions, oughtn't  indeed  to  have  shown  her  at  all.  His  pre- 
cautions should  have  been  those  of  a  forger  or  a  murderer, 
and  the  people  at  home  would  never  have  mentioned  ex- 
tradition. This  was  a  wife  for  foreign  service  or  purely 
external  use;  a  decent  consideration  would  have  spared 
her  the  injury  of  comparisons.  Such  was  the  first  flush  of 
George  Stransom's  reaction;  but  as  he  sat  alone  that  night 
— there  were  particular  hours  he  always  passed  alone — the 
harshness  dropped  from  it  and  left  only  the  pity.  He  could 
spend  an  evening  with  Kate  Creston,  if  the  man  to  whom 
she  had  given  everything  couldn't.  He  had  known  her 
twenty  years,  and  she  was  the  only  woman  for  whom  he 
might  perhaps  have  been  unfaithful.  She  was  all  cleverness 
and  sympathy  and  charm;  her  house  had  been  the  very 
easiest  in  all  the  world  and  her  friendship  the  very  firmest. 
Without  accidents  he  had  loved  her,  without  accidents 
every  one  had  loved  her:  she  had  made  the  passions  about 
her  as  regular  as  the  moon  makes  the  tides.  She  had  been 
also  of  course  far  too  good  for  her  husband,  but  he  never 
suspected  it,  and  in  nothing  had  she  been  more  admirable 
than  in  the  exquisite  art  with  which  she  tried  to  keep  every 
one  else  (keeping  Creston  was  no  trouble)  from  finding  it 
out.  Here  was  a  man  to  whom  she  had  devoted  her  life  and 
for  whom  she  had  given  it  up — dying  to  bring  into  the 
world  a  child  of  his  bed;  and  she  had  had  only  to  submit  to 
her  fate  to  have,  ere  the  grass  was  green  on  her  grave,  no 
more  existence  for  him  than  a  domestic  servant  he  had 
replaced.  The  frivolity,  the  indecency  of  it  made  Stran- 
som's eyes  fill;  and  he  had  that  evening  a  sturdy  sense  that 
he  alone,  in  a  world  without  delicacy,  had  a  right  to  hold 
up  his  head.  While  he  smoked,  after  dinner,  he  had  a  book 
in  his  lap,  but  he  had  no  eyes  for  his  page:  his  eyes,  in  the 
swarming  void  of  things,  seemed  to  have  caught  Kate 
Creston's,  and  it  was  into  their  sad  silences  he  looked.  It 
was  to  him  her  sentient  spirit  had  turned,  knowing  it  to 

308 


Henry  James 

be  of  her  he  would  think.  He  thought  for  a  long  time  of 
how  the  closed  eyes  of  dead  women  could  still  live — how 
they  could  open  again,  in  a  quiet  lamplit  room,  long  after 
they  had  looked  their  last.  They  had  looks  that  survived — 
had  them  as  great  poets  had  quoted  lines. 

The  newspaper  lay  by  his  chair — the  thing  that  came  in 
the  afternoon  and  the  servants  thought  one  wanted;  with- 
out sense  for  what  was  in  it  he  had  mechanically  unfolded 
and  then  dropped  it.  Before  he  went  to  bed  he  took  it  up, 
and  this  time,  at  the  top  of  a  paragraph,  he  was  caught  by 
five  words  that  made  him  start.  He  stood  staring,  before 
the  fire,  at  the  "Death  of  Sir  Acton  Hague,  K.C.B.,"  the 
man  who  ten  years  earlier  had  been  the  nearest  of  his 
friends  and  whose  deposition  from  this  eminence  had  prac- 
tically left  it  without  an  occupant.  He  had  seen  him  after 
their  rupture,  but  hadn't  now  seen  him  for  years.  Standing 
there  before  the  fire  he  turned  cold  as  he  read  what  had 
befallen  him.  Promoted  a  short  time  previous  to  the 
governorship  of  the  Westward  Islands,  Acton  Hague  had 
died,  in  the  bleak  honour  of  this  exile,  of  an  illness  conse- 
quent on  the  bite  of  a  poisonous  snake.  His  career  was 
compressed  by  the  newspaper  into  a  dozen  lines,  the  pe- 
rusal of  which  excited  on  George  Stransom's  part  no  warmer 
feeling  than  one  of  relief  at  the  absence  of  any  mention  of 
their  quarrel,  an  incident  accidentally  tainted  at  the  time, 
thanks  to  their  joint  immersion  in  large  affairs,  with  a  hor- 
rible publicity.  Public  indeed  was  the  wrong  Stransom 
had,  to  his  own  sense,  suffered,  the  insult  he  had  blankly 
taken  from  the  only  man  with  whom  he  had  ever  been 
intimate;  the  friend,  almost  adored,  of  his  University 
years,  the  subject,  later,  of  his  passionate  loyalty:  so 
public  that  he  had  never  spoken  of  it  to  a  human  creature, 
so  public  that  he  had  completely  overlooked  it.  It  had 
made  the  difference  for  him  that  friendship  too  was  all 
over,  but  it  had  only  made  just  that  one.  The  shock  of 
interests  had  been  private,  intensely  so;  but  the  action 

309 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

taken  by  Hague  had  been  in  the  face  of  men.  Today  it  all 
seemed  to  have  occurred  merely  to  the  end  that  George 
Stransom  should  think  of  him  as  "Hague"  and  measure 
exactly  how  much  he  himself  could  resemble  a  stone.  He 
went  cold,  suddenly  and  horribly  cold,  to  bed. 

Ill 

The  next  day,  in  the  afternoon,  in  the  great  grey  suburb, 
he  knew  his  long  walk  had  tired  him.  In  the  dreadful 
cemetery  alone  he  had  been  on  his  feet  an  hour.  Instinc- 
tively, coming  back,  they  had  taken  him  a  devious  course, 
and  it  was  a  desert  in  which  no  circling  cabman  hovered 
over  possible  prey.  He  paused  on  a  corner  and  measured 
the  dreariness;  then  he  made  out  through  the  gathered 
dusk  that  he  was  in  one  of  those  tracts  of  London  which  are 
less  gloomy  by  night  than  by  day,  because,  in  the  former 
case,  of  the  civil  gift  of  light.  By  day  there  was  nothing, 
but  by  night  there  were  lamps,  and  George  Stransom  was 
in  a  mood  that  made  lamps  good  in  themselves.  It  wasn't 
that  they  could  show  him  anything,  it  was  only  that  they 
could  burn  clear.  To  his  surprise,  however,  after  a  while, 
they  did  show  him  something:  the  arch  of  a  high  doorway 
approached  by  a  low  terrace  of  steps,  in  the  depth  of 
which — it  formed  a  dim  vestibule — the  raising  of  a  curtain 
at  the  moment  he  passed  gave  him  a  glimpse  of  an  avenue 
of  gloom  with  a  glow  of  tapers  at  the  end.  He  stopped  and 
looked  up,  recognising  the  place  as  a  church.  The  thought 
quickly  came  to  him  that  since  he  was  tired  he  might  rest 
there;  so  that  after  a  moment  he  had  in  turn  pushed  up 
the  leathern  curtain  and  gone  in.  It  was  a  temple  of  the 
old  persuasion,  and  there  had  evidently  been  a  function — 
perhaps  a  service  for  the  dead;  the  high  altar  was  still  a 
blaze  of  candles.  This  was  an  exhibition  he  always  liked, 
and  he  dropped  into  a  seat  with  relief.  More  than  it  had 
ever  yet  come  home  to  him  it  struck  him  as  good  there 
should  be  churches. 

310 


Henry  James 

This  one  was  almost  empty  and  the  other  altars  were 
dim;  a  verger  shuffled  about,  an  old  woman  coughed,  but 
it  seemed  to  Stransom  there  was  hospitality  in  the  thick 
sweet  air.  Was  it  only  the  savour  of  the  incense  or  was  it 
something  of  larger  intention?  He  had  at  any  rate  quitted 
the  great  grey  suburb  and  come  nearer  to  the  warm  centre. 
He  presently  ceased  to  feel  intrusive,  gaining  at  last  even 
a  sense  of  community  with  the  only  worshipper  in  his 
neighbourhood,  the  sombre  presence  of  a  woman,  in 
mourning  unrelieved,  whose  back  was  all  he  could  see  of 
her  and  who  had  sunk  deep  into  prayer  at  no  great  distance 
from  him.  He  wished  he  could  sink,  like  her,  to  the  very 
bottom,  be  as  motionless,  as  rapt  in  prostration.  After  a 
few  moments  he  shifted  his  seat;  it  was  almost  indelicate 
to  be  so  aware  of  her.  But  Stransom  subsequently  quite 
lost  himself,  floating  away  on  the  sea  of  light.  If  occasions 
like  this  had  been  more  frequent  in  his  life  he  would  have 
had  more  present  the  great  original  type,  set  up  in  a  myr- 
iad temples,  of  the  unapproachable  shrine  he  had  erected 
in  his  mind.  That  shrine  had  begun  in  vague  likeness  to 
church  pomps,  but  the  echo  had  ended  by  growing  more 
distinct  than  the  sound.  The  sound  now  rang  out,  the  type 
blazed  at  him  with  all  its  fires  and  with  a  mystery  of  radi- 
ance in  which  endless  meanings  could  glow.  The  thing 
became  as  he  sat  there  his  appropriate  altar  and  each 
starry  candle  an  appropriate  vow.  He  numbered  them, 
named  them,  grouped  them — it  was  the  silent  roll-call  of 
his  Dead.  They  made  together  a  brightness  vast  and  in- 
tense, a  brightness  in  which  the  mere  chapel  of  his  thoughts 
grew  so  dim  that  as  it  faded  away  he  asked  himself  if  he 
shouldn't  find  his  real  comfort  in  some  material  act,  some 
outward  worship. 

This  idea  took  possession  of  him  while,  at  a  distance,  the 
black-robed  lady  continued  prostrate;  he  was  quietly 
thrilled  with  his  conception,  which  at  last  brought  him  to 
his  feet  in  the  sudden  excitement  of  a  plan.  He  wandered 

3" 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

softly  through  the  aisles,  pausing  in  the  different  chapels, 
all  save  one  applied  to  a  special  devotion.  It  was  in  this 
clear  recess,  lampless  and  unapplied,  that  he  stood  longest 
— the  length  of  time  it  took  him  fully  to  grasp  the  con- 
ception of  gilding  it  with  his  bounty.  He  should  snatch  it 
from  no  other  rites  and  associate  it  with  nothing  profane; 
he  would  simply  take  it  as  it  should  be  given  up  to  him 
and  make  it  a  masterpiece  of  splendour  and  a  mountain 
of  fire.  Tended  sacredly  all  the  year,  with  the  sanctifying 
church  round  it,  it  would  always  be  ready  for  his  offices. 
There  would  be  difficulties,  but  from  the  first  they  pre- 
sented themselves  only  as  difficulties  surmounted.  Even 
for  a  person  so  little  affiliated  the  thing  would  be  a  matter 
of  arrangement.  He  saw  it  all  in  advance,  and  how  bright 
in  especial  the  place  would  become  to  him  in  the  intermis- 
sions of  toil  and  the  dusk  of  afternoons;  how  rich  in  assur- 
ance at  all  times,  but  especially  in  the  indifferent  world. 
Before  withdrawing  he  drew  nearer  again  to  the  spot 
where  he  had  first  sat  down,  and  in  the  movement  he  met 
the  lady  whom  he  had  seen  praying  and  who  was  now  on 
her  way  to  the  door.  She  passed  him  quickly,  and  he  had 
only  a  glimpse  of  her  pale  face  and  her  unconscious,  almost 
sightless  eyes.  For  that  instant  she  looked  faded  and 
handsome. 

This  was  the  origin  of  the  rites  more  public,  yet  certainly 
esoteric,  that  he  at  last  found  himself  able  to  establish.  It 
took  a  long  time,  it  took  a  year,  and  both  the  process  and 
the  result  would  have  been — for  any  who  knew — a  vivid 
picture  of  his  good  faith.  No  one  did  know,  in  fact — no  one 
but  the  bland  ecclesiastics  whose  acquaintance  he  had 
promptly  sought,  whose  objections  he  had  softly  overrid- 
den, whose  curiosity  and  sympathy  he  had  artfully 
charmed,  whose  assent  to  his  eccentric  munificence  he  had 
eventually  won,  and  who  had  asked  for  concessions  in 
exchange  for  indulgences.  Stransom  had  of  course  at  an 
early  stage  of  his  enquiry  been  referred  to  the  Bishop,  and 

312 


Henry  James 

the  Bishop  had  been  delightfully  human,  the  Bishop  had 
been  almost  amused.  Success  was  within  sight,  at  any 
rate,  from  the  moment  the  attitude  of  those  whom  it  con- 
cerned became  liberal  in  response  to  liberality.  The  altar 
and  the  sacred  shell  that  half  encircled  it,  consecrated  to 
an  ostensible  and  customary  worship,  were  to  be  splendidly 
maintained;  all  that  Stransom  reserved  to  himself  was  the 
number  of  his  lights  and  the  free  enjoyment  of  his  inten- 
tion. When  the  intention  had  taken  complete  effect  the 
enjoyment  became  even  greater  than  he  had  ventured  to 
hope.  He  liked  to  think  of  this  effect  when  far  from  it, 
liked  to  convince  himself  of  it  yet  again  when  near.  He 
was  not  often  indeed  so  near  as  that  a  visit  to  it  hadn't 
perforce  something  of  the  patience  of  a  pilgrimage;  but 
the  time  he  gave  to  his  devotion  came  to  seem  to  him  more 
a  contribution  to  his  other  interests  than  a  betrayal  of 
them.  Even  a  loaded  life  might  be  easier  when  one  had 
added  a  new  necessity  to  it. 

How  much  easier  was  probably  never  guessed  by  those 
who  simply  knew  there  were  hours  when  he  disappeared 
and  for  many  of  whom  there  was  a  vulgar  reading  of  what 
they  used  to  call  his  plunges.  These  plunges  were  into 
depths  quieter  than  the  deep  sea-caves,  and  the  habit  had 
at  the  end  of  a  year  or  two  become  the  one  it  would  have 
cost  him  most  to  relinquish.  Now  they  had  really,  his 
Dead,  something  that  was  indefeasibly  theirs;  and  he  liked 
to  think  that  they  might  in  cases  be  the  Dead  of  others,  as 
well  as  that  the  Dead  of  others  might  be  invoked  there 
under  the  protection  of  what  he  had  done.  Whoever  bent 
a  knee  on  the  carpet  he  had  laid  down  appeared  to  him  to 
act  in  the  spirit  of  his  intention.  Each  of  his  lights  had  a 
name  for  him,  and  from  time  to  time  a  new  light  was 
kindled.  This  was  what  he  had  fundamentally  agreed  for, 
that  there  should  always  be  room  for  them  all.  What  those 
who  passed  or  lingered  saw  was  simply  the  most  resplend- 
ent of  the  altars  called  suddenly  into  vivid  usefulness, 

313 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

with  a  quiet  elderly  man,  for  whom  it  evidently  had  a  fas- 
cination, often  seated  there  in  a  maze  or  a  doze;  but  half 
the  satisfaction  of  the  spot  for  this  mysterious  and  fitful 
worshipper  was  that  he  found  the  years  of  his  life  there, 
and  the  ties,  the  affections,  the  struggles,  the  submissions, 
the  conquests,  if  there  had  been  such,  a  record  of  that 
adventurous  journey  in  which  the  beginnings  and  the 
endings  of  human  relations  are  the  lettered  mile-stones. 
He  had  in  general  little  taste  for  the  past  as  a  part  of  his 
own  history;  at  other  times  and  in  other  places  it  mostly 
seemed  to  him  pitiful  to  consider  and  impossible  to  repair; 
but  on  these  occasions  he  accepted  it  with  something  of 
that  positive  gladness  with  which  one  adjusts  one's  self 
to  an  ache  that  begins  to  succumb  to  treatment.  To  the 
treatment  of  time  the  malady  of  life  begins  at  a  given 
moment  to  succumb;  and  these  were  doubtless  the  hours 
at  which  that  truth  most  came  home  to  him.  The  day  was 
written  for  him  there  on  which  he  had  first  become  ac- 
quainted with  death,  and  the  successive  phases  of  the 
acquaintance  were  marked  each  with  a  flame. 

The  flames  were  gathering  thick  at  present,  for  Stran- 
som  had  entered  that  dark  defile  of  our  earthly  descent  in 
which  some  one  dies  every  day.  It  was  only  yesterday  that 
Kate  Creston  had  flashed  out  her  white  fire;  yet  already 
there  were  younger  stars  ablaze  on  the  tips  of  the  tapers. 
Various  persons  in  whom  his  interest  had  not  been  intense 
drew  closer  to  him  by  entering  this  company.  He  went 
over  it,  head  by  head,  till  he  felt  like  the  shepherd  of  a 
huddled  flock,  with  all  a  shepherd's  vision  of  differences 
imperceptible.  He  knew  his  candles  apart,  up  to  the  colour 
of  the  flame,  and  would  still  have  known  them  had  their 
positions  all  been  changed.  To  other  imaginations  they 
might  stand  for  other  things — that  they  should  stand  for 
something  to  be  hushed  before  was  all  he  desired;  but  he 
was  intensely  conscious  of  the  personal  note  of  each  and  of 
the  distinguishable  way  it  contributed  to  the  concert. 


Henry  James 

There  were  hours  at  which  he  almost  caught  himself  wish- 
ing that  certain  of  his  friends  would  now  die,  that  he  might 
establish  with  them  in  this  manner  a  connexion  more 
charming  than,  as  it  happened,  it  was  possible  to  enjoy 
with  them  in  life.  In  regard  to  those  from  whom  one  was 
separated  by  the  long  curves  of  the  globe  such  a  connexion 
could  only  be  an  improvement:  it  brought  them  instantly 
within  reach.  Of  course  there  were  gaps  in  the  constella- 
tion, for  Stransom  knew  he  could  only  pretend  to  act  for  his 
own,  and  it  wasn't  every  figure  passing  before  his  eyes  into 
the  great  obscure  that  was  entitled  to  a  memorial.  There 
was  a  strange  sanctification  in  death,  but  some  characters 
were  more  sanctified  by  being  forgotten  than  by  being 
remembered.  The  greatest  blank  in  the*shining  page  was 
the  memory  of  Acton  Hague,  of  which  he  inveterately 
tried  to  rid  himself.  For  Acton  Hague  no  flame  could  ever 
rise  on  any  altar  of  his. 

IV 

Every  year,  the  day  he  walked  back  from  the  great 
graveyard,  he  went  to  church  as  he  had  done  the  day  his 
idea  was  born.  It  was  on  this  occasion,  as  it  happened, 
after  a  year  had  passed,  that  he  began  to  observe  his  altar 
to  be  haunted  by  a  worshipper  at  least  as  frequent  as  him- 
self. Others  of  the  faithful,  and  in  the  rest  of  the  church, 
came  and  went,  appealing  sometimes,  when  they  dis- 
appeared, to  a  vague  or  to  a  particular  recognition;  but 
this  unfailing  presence  was  always  to  be  observed  when  he 
arrived  and  still  in  possession  when  he  departed.  He  was 
surprised,  the  first  time,  at  the  promptitude  with  which  it 
assumed  an  identity  for  him — the  identity  of  the  lady 
whom  two  years  before,  on  his  anniversary,  he  had  seen  so 
intensely  bowed,  and  of  whose  tragic  face  he  had  had  so 
flitting  a  vision.  Given  the  time  that  had  passed,  his 
recollection  of  her  was  fresh  enough  to  make  him  wonder. 
Of  himself  she  had  of  course  no  impression,  or  rather  had 

3*5 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

had  none  at  first:  the  time  came  when  her  manner  of  trans- 
acting her  business  suggested  her  having  gradually  guessed 
his  call  to  be  of  the  same  order.  She  used  his  altar  for  her 
own  purpose — he  could  only  hope  that,  sad  and  solitary 
as  she  always  struck  him,  she  used  it  for  her  own  Dead. 
There  were  interruptions,  infidelities,  all  on  his  part,  calls 
to  other  associations  and  duties;  but  as  the  months  went 
on  he  found  her  whenever  he  returned,  and  he  ended  by 
taking  pleasure  in  the  thought  that  he  had  given  her  almost 
the  contentment  he  had  given  himself.  They  worshipped 
side  by  side  so  often  that  there  were  moments  when  he 
wished  he  might  be  sure,  so  straight  did  their  prospect 
stretch  away  of  growing  old  together  in  their  rites.  She 
was  younger  than  he,  but  she  looked  as  if  her  Dead  were 
at  least  as  numerous  as  his  candles.  She  had  no  colour,  no 
sound,  no  fault,  and  another  of  the  things  about  which  he 
had  made  up  his  mind  was  that  she  had  no  fortune.  Al- 
ways black-robed,  she  must  have  had  a  succession  of 
sorrows.  People  weren't  poor,  after  all,  whom  so  many 
losses  could  overtake;  they  were  positively  rich  when  they 
had  had  so  much  to  give  up.  But  the  air  of  this  devoted 
and  indifferent  woman,  who  always  made,  in  any  attitude, 
a  beautiful  accidental  line,  conveyed  somehow  to  Stransom 
that  she  had  known  more  kinds  of  trouble  than  one. 

He  had  a  great  love  of  music  and  little  time  for  the  joy 
of  it;  but  occasionally,  when  workaday  noises  were  muffled 
by  Saturday  afternoons,  it  used  to  come  back  to  him  that 
there  were  glories.  There  were  moreover  friends  who  re- 
minded him  of  this  and  side  by  side  with  whom  he  found 
himself  sitting  out  concerts.  On  one  of  these  winter  after- 
noons, in  St.  James's  Hall,  he  became  aware  after  he  had 
seated  himself  that  the  lady  he  had  so  often  seen  at  church 
was  in  the  place  next  him  and  was  evidently  alone,  as  he 
also  this  time  happened  to  be.  She  was  at  first  too  ab- 
sorbed in  the  consideration  of  the  programme  to  heed  him, 
but  when  she  at  last  glanced  at  him  he  took  advantage  of 

316 


Henry  James 

the  movement  to  speak  to  her,  greeting  her  with  the  re- 
mark that  he  felt  as  if  he  already  knew  her.  She  smiled  as 
she  said  "Oh  yes,  I  recognise  you";  yet  in  spite  of  this 
admission  of  long  acquaintance  it  was  the  first  he  had  seen 
of  her  smile.  The  effect  of  it  was  suddenly  to  contribute 
more  to  that  acquaintance  than  all  the  previous  meetings 
had  done.  He  hadn't  "taken  in,"  he  said  to  himself,  that 
she  was  so  pretty.  Later,  that  evening — it  was  while  he 
rolled  along  in  a  hansom  on  his  way  to  dine  out — he  added 
that  he  hadn't  taken  in  that  she  was  so  interesting.  The 
next  morning  in  the  midst  of  his  work  he  quite  suddenly 
and  irrelevantly  reflected  that  his  impression  of  her,  begin- 
ning so  far  back,  was  like  a  winding  river  that  had  at  last 
reached  the  sea. 

His  work  in  fact  was  blurred  a  little  all  that  day  by  the 
sense  of  what  had  now  passed  between  them.  It  wasn't 
much,  but  it  had  just  made  the  difference.  They  had 
listened  together  to  Beethoven  and  Schumann;  they  had 
talked  in  the  pauses,  and  at  the  end,  when  at  the  door,  to 
which  they  moved  together,  he  had  asked  her  if  he  could 
help  her  in  the  matter  of  getting  away.  She  had  thanked 
him  and  put  up  her  umbrella,  slipping  into  the  crowd  with- 
out an  allusion  to  their  meeting  yet  again  and  leaving  him 
to  remember  at  leisure  that  not  a  word  had  been  ex- 
changed about  the  usual  scene  of  that  coincidence.  This 
omission  struck  him  now  as  natural  and  then  again  as  per- 
verse. She  mightn't  in  the  least  have  allowed  his  warrant 
for  speaking  to  her,  and  yet  if  she  hadn't  he  would  have 
judged  her  an  underbred  woman.  It  was  odd  that  when 
nothing  had  really  ever  brought  them  together  he  should 
have  been  able  successfully  to  assume  they  were  in  a 
manner  old  friends — that  this  negative  quantity  was  some- 
how more  than  they  could  express.  His  success,  it  was 
true,  had  been  qualified  by  her  quick  escape,  so  that  there 
grew  up  in  him  an  absurd  desire  to  put  it  to  some  better 
test.  Save  in  so  far  as  some  other  poor  chance  might  help 

3*7 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

him,  such  a  test  could  be  only  to  meet  her  afresh  at  church. 
Left  to  himself  he  would  have  gone  to  church  the  very 
next  afternoon,  just  for  the  curiosity  of  seeing  if  he  should 
find  her  there.  But  he  wasn't  left  to  himself,  a  fact  he  dis- 
covered quite  at  the  last,  after  he  had  virtually  made  up 
his  mind  to  go.  The  influence  that  kept  him  away  really 
revealed  to  him  how  little  to  himself  his  Dead  ever  left 
him.  He  went  only  for  them — for  nothing  else  in  the  world. 
The  force  of  this  revulsion  kept  him  away  ten  days :  he 
hated  to  connect  the  place  with  anything  but  his  offices  or 
to  give  a  glimpse  of  the  curiosity  that  had  been  on  the 
point  of  moving  him.  It  was  absurd  to  weave  a  tangle 
about  a  matter  so  simple  as  a  custom  of  devotion  that 
might  with  ease  have  been  daily  or  hourly;  yet  the  tangle 
got  itself  woven.  He  was  sorry,  he  was  disappointed:  it 
was  as  if  a  long  happy  spell  had  been  broken  and  he  had 
lost  a  familiar  security.  At  the  last,  however,  he  asked 
himself  if  he  was  to  stay  away  for  ever  from  the  fear  of  this 
muddle  about  motives.  After  an  interval  neither  longer 
nor  shorter  than  usual  he  re-entered  the  church  with  a 
clear  conviction  that  he  should  scarcely  heed  the  presence 
or  the  absence  of  the  lady  of  the  concert.  This  indifference 
didn't  prevent  his  at  once  noting  that  for  the  only  time 
since  he  had  first  seen  her  she  wasn't  on  the  spot.  He  had 
now  no  scruple  about  giving  her  time  to  arrive,  but  she 
didn't  arrive,  and  when  he  went  away  still  missing  her  he 
was  profanely  and  consentingly  sorry.  If  her  absence  made 
the  tangle  more  intricate,  that  was  all  her  own  doing.  By 
the  end  of  another  year  it  was  very  intricate  indeed;  but 
by  that  time  he  didn't  in  the  least  care,  and  it  was  only  his 
cultivated  consciousness  that  had  given  him  scruples. 
Three  times  in  three  months  he  had  gone  to  church  with- 
out finding  her,  and  he  felt  he  hadn't  needed  these  occa- 
sions to  show  him  his  suspense  had  dropped.  Yet  it  was, 
incongruously,  not  indifference,  but  a  refinement  of  deli- 
cacy that  had  kept  him  from  asking  the  sacristan,  who 


Henry  James 

would  of  course  immediately  have  recognised  his  descrip- 
tion of  her,  whether  she  had  been  seen  at  other  hours.  His 
delicacy  had  kept  him  from  asking  any  question  about  her 
at  any  time,  and  it  was  exactly  the  same  virtue  that  had 
left  him  so  free  to  be  decently  civil  to  her  at  the  concert. 
This  happy  advantage  now  served  him  anew,  enabling 
him  when  she  finally  met  his  eyes — it  was  after  a  fourth 
trial — to  predetermine  quite  fixedly  his  awaiting  her  re- 
treat. He  joined  her  in  the  street  as  soon  as  she  had  moved, 
asking  her  if  he  might  accompany  her  a  certain  distance. 
With  her  placid  permission  he  went  as  far  as  a  house  in  the 
neighbourhood  at  which  she  had  business:  she  let  him 
know  it  was  not  where  she  lived.  She  lived,  as  she  said,  in  a 
mere  slum,  with  an  old  aunt,  a  person  in  connexion  with 
whom  she  spoke  of  the  engrossment  of  humdrum  duties 
and  regular  occupations.  She  wasn't,  the  mourning  niece, 
in  her  first  youth,  and  her  vanished  freshness  had  left 
something  behind  that,  for  Stransom,  represented  the 
proof  it  had  been  tragically  sacrificed.  Whatever  she  gave 
him  the  assurance  of  she  gave  without  references.  She 
might  have  been  a  divorced  duchess — she  might  have  been 
an  old  maid  who  taught  the  harp. 

V 

They  fell  at  last  into  the  way  of  walking  together  almost 
every  time  they  met,  though  for  a  long  time  still  they 
never  met  but  at  church.  He  couldn't  ask  her  to  come  and 
see  him,  and  as  if  she  hadn't  a  proper  place  to  receive  him 
she  never  invited  her  friend.  As  much  as  himself  she  knew 
the  world  of  London,  but  from  an  undiscussed  instinct  of 
privacy  they  haunted  the  region  not  mapped  on  the  social 
chart.  On  the  return  she  always  made  him  leave  her  at  the 
same  corner.  She  looked  with  him,  as  a  pretext  for  a  pause, 
at  the  depressed  things  in  suburban  shop-fronts;  and  there 
was  never  a  word  he  had  said  to  her  that  she  hadn't 
beautifully  understood.  For  long  ages  he  never  knew  her 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

name,  any  more  than  she  had  ever  pronounced  his  own; 
but  it  was  not  their  names  that  mattered,  it  was  only  their 
perfect  practice  and  their  common  need. 

These  things  made  their  whole  relation  so  impersonal 
that  they  hadn't  the  rules  or  reasons  people  found  in  or- 
dinary friendships.  They  didn't  care  for  the  things  it  was 
supposed  necessary  to  care  for  in  the  intercourse  of  the 
world.  They  ended  one  day — they  never  knew  which  of 
th£m  expressed  it  first — by  throwing  out  the  idea  that 
they  didn't  care  for  each  other.  Over  this  idea  they  grew 
quite  intimate;  they  rallied  to  it  in  a  way  that  marked  a 
fresh  start  in  their  confidence.  If  to  feel  deeply  together 
about  certain  things  wholly  distinct  from  themselves  didn't 
constitute  a  safety,  where  was  safety  to  be  looked  for? 
Not  lightly  nor  often,  not  without  occasion  nor  without 
emotion,  any  more  than  in  any  other  reference  by  serious 
people  to  a  mystery  of  their  faith;  but  when  something  had 
happened  to  warm,  as  it  were,  the  air  for  it,  they  came  as 
near  as  they  could  come  to  calling  their  Dead  by  name. 
They  felt  it  was  coming  very  near  to  utter  their  thought 
at  all.  The  word  "they"  expressed  enough;  it  limited  the 
mention,  it  had  a  dignity  of  its  own,  and  if,  in  their  talk, 
you  had  heard  our  friends  use  it,  you  might  have  taken 
them  for  a  pair  of  pagans  of  old  alluding  decently  to  the 
domesticated  gods.  They  never  knew — at  least  Stransom 
never  knew — how  they  had  learned  to  be  sure  about  each 
other.  If  it  had  been  with  each  a  question  of  what  the 
other  was  there  for,  the  certitude  had  come  in  some  fine 
way  of  its  own.  Any  faith,  after  all,  has  the  instinct  of 
propagation,  and  it  was  as  natural  as  it  was  beautiful  that 
they  should  have  taken  pleasure  on  the  spot  in  the  imag- 
ination of  a  following.  If  the  following  was  for  each  but  a 
following  of  one  it  had  proved  in  the  event  sufficient.  Her 
debt,  however,  of  course  was  much  greater  than  his,  be- 
cause while  she  had  only  given  him  a  worshipper  he  had 
given  her  a  splendid  temple.  Once  she  said  she  pitied  him 

320 


Henry  James 

for  the  length  of  his  list — she  had  counted  his  candles  al- 
most as  often  as  himself — and  this  made  him  wonder  what 
could  have  been  the  length  of  hers.  He  had  wondered 
before  at  the  coincidence  of  their  losses,  especially  as  from 
time  to  time  a  new  candle  was  set  up.  On  some  occasion 
some  accident  led  him  to  express  this  curiosity,  and  she 
answered  as  if  in  surprise  that  he  hadn't  already  under- 
stood. "Oh  for  me,  you  know,  the  more  there  are  the 
better — there  could  never  be  too  many.  I  should  like 
hundreds  and  hundreds — I  should  like  thousands;  I  should 
like  a  great  mountain  of  light." 

Then  of  course  in  a  flash  he  understood.  "Your  Dead 
are  only  One?" 

She  hung  back  at  this  as  never  yet.  "Only  One,"  she 
answered,  colouring  as  if  now  he  knew  her  guarded  secret. 
It  really  made  him  feel  he  knew  less  than  before,  so  diffi- 
cult was  it  for  him  to  reconstitute  a  life  in  which  a  single 
experience  had  so  belittled  all  others.  His  own  life,  round 
its  central  hollow,  had  been  packed  close  enough.  After 
this  she  appeared  to  have  regretted  her  confession,  though 
at  the  moment  she  spoke  there  had  been  pride  in  her  very 
embarrassment.  She  declared  to  him  that  his  own  was  the 
larger,  the  dearer  possession — the  portion  one  would  have 
chosen  if  one  had  been  able  to  choose;  she  assured  him  she 
could  perfectly  imagine  some  of  the  echoes  with  which  his 
silences  were  peopled.  He  knew  she  couldn't:  one's  relation 
to  what  one  had  loved  and  hated  had  been  a  relation  too 
distinct  from  the  relations  of  others.  But  this  didn't  affect 
the  fact  that  they  were  growing  old  together  in  their  piety. 
She  was  a  feature  of  that  piety,  but  even  at  the  ripe  stage 
of  acquaintance  in  which  they  occasionally  arranged  to 
meet  at  a  concert  or  to  go  together  to  an  exhibition  she  was 
not  a  feature  of  anything  else.  The  most  that  happened 
was  that  his  worship  became  paramount.  Friend  by  friend 
dropped  away  till  at  last  there  were  more  emblems  on  his 
altar  than  houses  left  him  to  enter.  She  was  more  than  any 

321 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

other  the  friend  who  remained,  but  she  was  unknown  to  all 
the  rest.  Once  when  she  had  discovered,  as  they  called  it, 
a  new  star,  she  used  the  expression  that  the  chapel  at  last 
was  full. 

"Oh  no,"  Stransom  replied,  "there's  a  great  thing  want- 
ing for  that!  The  chapel  will  never  be  full  till  a  candle  is 
set  up  before  which  all  the  others  will  pale.  It  will  be  the 
tallest  candle  of  all." 

Her  mild  wonder  rested  on  him.  "What  candle  do  you 
mean?" 

"  I  mean,  dear  lady,  my  own." 

He  had  learned  after  a  long  time  that  she  earned  money 
by  her  pen,  writing  under  a  pseudonym  she  never  disclosed 
in  magazines  he  never  saw.  She  knew  too  well  what  he 
couldn't  read  and  what  she  couldn't  write,  and  she  taught 
him  to  cultivate  indifference  with  a  success  that  did  much 
for  their  good  relations.  Her  invisible  industry  was  a  con- 
venience to  him;  it  helped  his  contented  thought  of  her, 
the  thought  that  rested  in  the  dignity  of  her  proud  obscure 
life,  her  little  remunerated  art  and  her  little  impenetrable 
home.  Lost,  with  her  decayed  relative,  in  her  dim  sub- 
urban world,  she  came  to  the  surface  for  him  in  distant 
places.  She  was  really  the  priestess  of  his  altar,  and  when- 
ever he  quitted  England  he  committed  it  to  her  keeping. 
She  proved  to  him  afresh  that  women  have  more  of  the 
spirit  of  religion  than  men;  he  felt  his  fidelity  pale  and  faint 
in  comparison  with  hers.  He  often  said  to  her  that  since  he 
had  so  little  time  to  live  he  rejoiced  in  her  having  so  much; 
so  glad  was  he  to  think  she  would  guard  the  temple  when 
he  should  have  been  called.  He  had  a  great  plan  for  that, 
which  of  course  he  told  her  too,  a  bequest  of  money  to  keep 
it  up  in  undiminished  state.  Of  the  administration  of  this 
fund  he  would  appoint  her  superintendent,  and  if  the  spirit 
should  move  her  she  might  kindle  a  taper  even  for  him. 

"And  who  will  kindle  one  even  for  me?"  she  then  seri- 
ously asked. 

322 


Henry  J a m e s 


VI 


She  was  always  in  mourning,  yet  the  day  he  came  back 
from  the  longest  absence  he  had  yet  made  her  appearance 
immediately  told  him  she  had  lately  had  a  bereavement. 
They  met  on  this  occasion  as  she  was  leaving  the  church, 
so  that  postponing  his  own  entrance  he  instantly  offered 
to  turn  round  and  walk  away  with  her.  She  considered, 
then  she  said:  "Go  in  now,  but  come  and  see  me  in  an 
hour."  He  knew  the  small  vista  of  her  street,  closed  at  the 
end  and  as  dreary  as  an  empty  pocket,  where  the  pairs  of 
shabby  little  houses,  semi-detached  but  indissolubly 
united,  were  like  married  couples  on  bad  terms.  Often, 
however,  as  he  had  gone  to  the  beginning  he  had  never 
gone  beyond.  Her  aunt  was  dead — that  he  immediately 
guessed,  as  well  as  that  it  made  a  difference;  but  when  she 
had  for  the  first  time  mentioned  her  number  he  found  him- 
self, on  her  leaving  him,  not  a  little  agitated  by  this  sudden 
liberality.  She  wasn't  a  person  with  whom,  after  all,  one 
got  on  so  very  fast:  it  had  taken  him  months  and  months 
to  learn  her  name,  years  and  years  to  learn  her  address. 
If  she  had  looked,  on  this  reunion,  so  much  older  to  him, 
how  in  the  world  did  he  look  to  her?  She  had  reached  the 
period  of  life  he  had  long  since  reached,  when,  after  separa- 
tions, the  marked  clock-face  of  the  friend  we  meet  an- 
nounces the  hour  we  have  tried  to  forget.  He  couldn't 
have  said  what  he  expected  as,  at  the  end  of  his  waiting, 
he  turned  the  corner  where  for  years  he  had  always  paused; 
simply  not  to  pause  was  a  sufficient  cause  for  emotion.  It 
was  an  event,  somehow;  and  in  all  their  long  acquaintance 
there  had  never  been  an  event.  This  one  grew  larger  when, 
five  minutes  later,  in  the  faint  elegance  of  her  little  draw- 
ing-room, she  quavered  out  a  greeting  that  showed  the 
measure  she  took  of  it.  He  had  a  strange  sense  of  having 
come  for  something  in  particular;  strange  because  literally 
there  was  nothing  particular  between  them,  nothing  save 

323 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

that  they  were  at  one  on  their  great  point,  which  had  long 
ago  become  a  magnificent  matter  of  course.  It  was  true 
that  after  she  had  said  "You  can  always  come  now,  you 
know/'  the  thing  he  was  there  for  seemed  already  to  have 
happened.  He  asked  her  if  it  was  the  death  of  her  aunt 
that  made  the  difference;  to  which  she  replied:  "She  never 
knew  I  knew  you.  I  wished  her  not  to."  The  beautiful 
clearness  of  her  candour — her  faded  beauty  was  like  a 
summer  twilight — disconnected  the  words  from  any  image 
of  deceit.  They  might  have  struck  him  as  the  period  of  a 
deep  dissimulation;  but  she  had  always  given  him  a  sense 
of  noble  reasons.  The  vanished  aunt  was  present,  as  he 
looked  about  him,  in  the  small  complacencies  of  the  room, 
the  beaded  velvet  and  the  fluted  moreen;  and  though,  as 
we  know,  he  had  the  worship  of  the  Dead,  he  found  himself 
not  definitely  regretting  this  lady.  If  she  wasn't  in  his  long 
list,  however,  she  was  in  her  niece's  short  one,  and  Stran- 
som  presently  observed  to  the  latter  that  now  at  least,  in 
the  place  they  haunted  together,  she  would  have  another 
object  of  devotion. 

"Yes,  I  shall  have  another.  She  was  very  kind  to  me. 
It's  that  that's  the  difference." 

He  judged,  wondering  a  good  deal  before  he  made  any 
motion  to  leave  her,  that  the  difference  would  somehow  be 
very  great  and  would  consist  of  still  other  things  than  her 
having  let  him  come  in.  It  rather  chilled  him,  for  they  had 
been  happy  together  as  they  were.  He  extracted  from  her 
at  any  rate  an  intimation  that  she  should  now  have  means 
less  limited,  that  her  aunt's  tiny  fortune  had  come  to  her, 
so  that  there  was  henceforth  only  one  to  consume  what  had 
formerly  been  made  to  suffice  for  two.  This  was  a  joy  to 
Stransom,  because  it  had  hitherto  been  equally  impossible 
for  him  either  to  offer  her  presents  or  contentedly  to  stay 
his  hand.  It  was  too  ugly  to  be  at  her  side  that  way, 
abounding  himself  and  yet  not  able  to  overflow — a  demon- 
stration that  would  have  been  signally  a  false  note.  Even 


Henry  James 

her  better  situation  too  seemed  only  to  draw  out  in  a  sense 
the  loneliness  of  her  future.  It  would  merely  help  her  to 
live  more  and  more  for  their  small  ceremonial,  and  this 
at  a  time  when  he  himself  had  begun  wearily  to  feel  that, 
having  set  it  in  motion,  he  might  depart.  When  they  had 
sat  a  while  in  the  pale  parlour  she  got  up — "This  isn't  my 
room:  let  us  go  into  mine."  They  had  only  to  cross  the 
narrow  hall,  as  he  found,  to  pass  quite  into  another  air. 
When  she  had  closed  the  door  of  the  second  room,  as  she 
called  it,  he  felt  at  last  in  real  possession  of  her.  The  place 
had  the  flush  of  life — it  was  expressive;  its  dark  red  walls 
were  articulate  with  memories  and  relics.  These  were 
simple  things — photographs  and  water-colours,  scraps  of 
writing  framed  and  ghosts  of  flowers  embalmed;  but  a 
moment  sufficed  to  show  him  they  had  a  common  meaning. 
It  was  here  she  had  lived  and  worked,  and  she  had  already 
told  him  she  would  make  no  change  of  scene.  He  read  the 
reference  in  the  objects  about  her — the  general  one  to 
places  and  times;  but  after  a  minute  he  distinguished 
among  them  a  small  portrait  of  a  gentleman.  At  a  distance 
and  without  their  glasses  his  eyes  were  only  so  caught  by 
it  as  to  feel  a  vague  curiosity.  Presently  this  impulse 
carried  him  nearer,  and  in  another  moment  he  was  staring 
at  the  picture  in  stupefaction  and  with  the  sense  that  some 
sound  had  broken  from  him.  He  was  further  conscious 
that  he  showed  his  companion  a  white  face  when  he  turned 
round  on  her  gasping:  "Acton  Hague!" 

She  matched  his  great  wonder.    "Did  you  know  him?" 

"He  was  the  friend  of  all  my  youth — of  my  early  man- 
hood. And  you  knew  him?" 

She  coloured  at  this  and  for  a  moment  her  answer  failed; 
her  eyes  embraced  everything  in  the  place,  and  a  strange 
irony  reached  her  lips  as  she  echoed:  "Knew  him?" 

Then  Stransom  understood,  while  the  room  heaved  like 
the  cabin  of  a  ship,  that  its  whole  contents  cried  out  with 
him,  that  it  was  a  museum  in  his  honour,  that  all  her  later 

325 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

years  had  been  addressed  to  him  and  that  the  shrine  he 
himself  had  reared  had  been  passionately  converted  to  this 
use.  It  was  all  for  Acton  Hague  that  she  had  kneeled 
every  day  at  his  altar.  What  need  had  there  been  for  a 
consecrated  candle  when  he  was  present  in  the  whole 
array?  The  revelation  so  smote  our  friend  in  the  face  that 
he  dropped  into  a  seat  and  sat  silent.  He  had  quickly  felt 
her  shaken  by  the  force  of  his  shock,  but  as  she  sank  on  the 
sofa  beside  him  and  laid  her  hand  on  his  arm  he  knew  al- 
most as  soon  that  she  mightn't  resent  it  as  much  as  she'd 
have  liked. 

VII 

He  learned  in  that  instant  two  things:  one  being  that 
even  in  so  long  a  time  she  had  gathered  no  knowledge  of 
his  great  intimacy  and  his  great  quarrel;  the  other  that  in 
spite  of  this  ignorance,  strangely  enough,  she  supplied  on 
the  spot  a  reason  for  his  stupor.  "How  extraordinary," 
he  presently  exclaimed,  "that  we  should  never  have 
known!" 

She  gave  a  wan  smile  which  seemed  to  Stransom  stranger 
even  than  the  fact  itself.  "I  never,  never  spoke  of  him." 

He  looked  again  about  the  room.  "Why  then,  if  your 
life  had  been  so  full  of  him?" 

"Mayn't  I  put  you  that  question  as  well?  Hadn't  your 
life  also  been  full  of  him?" 

"Any  one's,  every  one's  life  who  had  the  wonderful 
experience  of  knowing  him.  /  never  spoke  of  him," 
Stransom  added  in  a  moment,  "because  he  did  me — years 
ago — an  unforgettable  wrong."  She  was  silent,  and  with 
the  full  effect  of  his  presence  all  about  them  it  almost 
startled  her  guest  to  hear  no  protest  escape  her.  She 
accepted  his  words;  he  turned  his  eyes  to  her  again  to  see 
in  what  manner  she  accepted  them.  It  was  with  rising 
tears  and  a  rare  sweetness  in  the  movement  of  putting  out 
her  hand  to  take  his  own.  Nothing  more  wonderful  had 

326 


Henry  James 

ever  appeared  to  him  than,  in  that  little  chamber  of  re- 
membrance and  homage,  to  see  her  convey  with  such  ex- 
quisite mildness  that  as  from  Acton  Hague  any  injury  was 
credible.  The  clock  ticked  in  the  stillness — Hague  had 
probably  given  it  to  her — and  while  he  let  her  hold  his 
hand  with  a  tenderness  that  was  almost  an  assumption 
of  responsibility  for  his  old  pain  as  well  as  his  new,  Stran- 
som  after  a  minute  broke  out:  "Good  God,  how  he  must 
have  used  you!" 

She  dropped  his  hand  at  this,  got  up  and,  moving  across 
the  room,  made  straight  a  small  picture  to  which,  on  ex- 
amining it,  he  had  given  a  slight  push.  Then  turning  round 
on  him  with  her  pale  gaiety  recovered,  "I've  forgiven 
him!"  she  declared. 

"I  know  what  you've  done,"  said  Stransom;  "I  know 
what  you've  done  for  years."  For  a  moment  they  looked 
at  each  other  through  it  all  with  their  long  community  of 
service  in  their  eyes.  This  short  passage  made,  to  his  sense, 
for  the  woman  before  him,  an  immense,  an  absolutely 
naked  confession;  which  was  presently,  suddenly  blushing 
red  and  changing  her  place  again,  what  she  appeared  to 
learn  he  perceived  in  it.  He  got  up  and  "How  you  must 
have  loved  him!"  he  cried. 

"Women  aren't  like  men.  They  can  love  even  where 
they've  suffered." 

"Women  are  wonderful,"  said  Stransom.  "But  I  assure 
you  I've  forgiven  him  too." 

"If  I  had  known  of  anything  so  strange  I  wouldn't  have 
brought  you  here." 

"So  that  we  might  have  gone  on  in  our  ignorance  to  the 
last?" 

"What  do  you  call  the  last?"  she  asked,  smiling  still. 

At  this  he  could  smile  back  at  her.    "You'll  see — when 


it  comes." 


She  thought  of  that.  "This  is  better  perhaps;  but  as  we 
were — it  was  good." 

327 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

He  put  her  the  question.  "Did  it  never  happen  that  he 
spoke  of  me?" 

Considering  more  intently  she  made  no  answer,  and  he 
then  knew  he  should  have  been  adequately  answered  by 
her  asking  how  often  he  himself  had  spoken  of  their  ter- 
rible friend.  Suddenly  a  brighter  light  broke  in  her  face 
and  an  excited  idea  sprang  to  her  lips  in  the  appeal:  "You 
have  forgiven  him?" 

"How,  if  I  hadn't,  could  I  linger  here?" 

She  visibly  winced  at  the  deep  but  unintended  irony  of 
this;  but  even  while  she  did  so  she  panted  quickly:  "Then 
in  the  lights  on  your  altar ?" 

"There's  never  a  light  for  Acton  Hague!" 

She  stared  with  a  dreadful  fall,  "But  if  he's  one  of  your 
Dead?" 

"He's  one  of  the  world's,  if  you  like — he's  one  of  yours. 
But  he's  not  one  of  mine.  Mine  are  only  the  Dead  who 
died  possessed  of  me.  They're  mine  in  death  because  they 
were  mine  in  life." 

"He  was  yours  in  life  then,  even  if  for  a  while  he  ceased 
to  be.  If  you  forgave  him  you  went  back  to  him.  Those 
whom  we've  once  loved " 

"Are  those  who  can  hurt  us  most,"  Stransom  broke  in. 

"Ah  it's  not  true — you've  not  forgiven  him!"  she  wailed 
with  a  passion  that  startled  him. 

He  looked  at  her  as  never  yet.  "What  was  it  he  did  to 
you?" 

"Everything!"  Then  abruptly  she  put  out  her  hand  in 
farewell.  "Good-bye." 

He  turned  as  cold  as  he  had  turned  that  night  he  read 
the  man's  death.  "You  mean  that  we  meet  no  more?" 

"Not  as  we've  met — not  there!" 

He  stood  aghast  at  this  snap  of  their  great  bond,  at  the 
renouncement  that  rang  out  in  the  word  she  so  expressively 
sounded.  "  But  what's  changed — for  you  ? " 

She  waited  in  all  the  sharpness  of  a  trouble  that  for  the 

328 


Henry  James 

first  time  since  he  had  known  her  made  her  splendidly 
stern.  "How  can  you  understand  now  when  you  didn't 
understand  before?" 

"  I  didn't  understand  before  only  because  I  didn't  know. 
Now  that  I  know,  I  see  what  I've  been  living  with  for 
years,"  Stransom  went  on  very  gently. 

She  looked  at  him  with  a  larger  allowance,  doing  this 
gentleness  justice.  "How  can  I  then,  on  this  new  knowl- 
edge of  my  own,  ask  you  to  continue  to  live  with  it?" 

"I  set  up  my  altar,  with  its  multiplied  meanings," 
Stransom  began;  but  she  quickly  interrupted  him. 

"You  set  up  your  altar,  and  when  I  wanted  one  most  I 
found  it  magnificently  ready.  I  used  it  with  the  gratitude 
I've  always  shown  you,  for  I  knew  it  from  of  old  to  be 
dedicated  to  Death.  I  told  you  long  ago  that  my  Dead 
weren't  many.  Yours  were,  but  all  you  had  done  for  them 
was  none  too  much  for  my  worship!  You  had  placed  a 
great  light  for  Each — I  gathered  them  together  for 
One!" 

"We  had  simply  different  intentions,"  he  returned. 
"That,  as  you  say,  I  perfectly  knew,  and  I  don't  see  why 
your  intention  shouldn't  still  sustain  you." 

"That's  because  you're  generous — you  can  imagine  and 
think.  But  the  spell's  broken." 

It  seemed  to  poor  Stransom,  in  spite  of  his  resistance, 
that  it  really  was,  and  the  prospect  stretched  grey  and 
void  before  him.  All  he  could  say,  however,  was:  "I  hope 
you'll  try  before  you  give  up." 

"If  I  had  known  you  had  ever  known  him  I  should  have 
taken  for  granted  he  had  his  candle,"  she  presently  an- 
swered. "What's  changed,  as  you  say,  is  that  on  making 
the  discovery  I  find  he  never  has  had  it.  That  makes  my 
attitude" — she  paused  as  thinking  how  to  express  it,  then 
said  simply — "all  wrong." 

"Come  once  again,"  he  pleaded. 

"Will  you  give  him  his  candle?"  she  asked. 

329 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

He  waited,  but  only  because  it  would  sound  ungracious; 
not  because  of  a  doubt  of  his  feeling.  "I  can't  do  that!" 
he  declared  at  last. 

"Then  good-bye."    And  she  gave  him  her  hand  again. 

He  had  got  his  dismissal;  besides  which,  in  the  agitation 
of  everything  that  had  opened  out  to  him,  he  felt  the  need 
to  recover  himself  as  he  could  only  do  in  solitude.  Yet  he 
lingered — lingered  to  see  if  she  had  no  compromise  to 
express,  no  attenuation  to  propose.  But  he  only  met  her 
great  lamenting  eyes,  in  which  indeed  he  read  that  she  was 
as  sorry  for  him  as  for  any  one  else.  This  made  him  say: 
"At  least,  in  any  case,  I  may  see  you  here." 

"Oh  yes,  come  if  you  like.  But  I  don't  think  it  will  do." 

He  looked  round  the  room  once  more,  knowing  how  little 
he  was  sure  it  would  do.  He  felt  also  stricken  and  more  and 
more  cold,  and  his  chill  was  like  an  ague  in  which  he  had  to 
make  an  effort  not  to  shake.  Then  he  made  doleful  reply: 
"I  must  try  on  my  side — if  you  can't  try  on  yours."  She 
came  out  with  him  to  the  hall  and  into  the  doorway,  and 
here  he  put  her  the  question  he  held  he  could  least  answer 
from  his  own  wit.  "Why  have  you  never  let  me  come 
before?" 

"Because  my  aunt  would  have  seen  you,  and  I  should 
have  had  to  tell  her  how  I  came  to  know  you." 

"And  what  would  have  been  the  objection  to  that?" 

"It  would  have  entailed  other  explanations;  there  would 
at  any  rate  have  been  that  danger." 

"Surely  she  knew  you  went  every  day  to  church," 
Stransom  objected. 

"She  didn't  know  what  I  went  for." 

"Of  me  then  she  never  even  heard?" 

"You'll  think  I  was  deceitful.  But  I  didn't  need  to  be!" 

He  was  now  on  the  lower  door-step,  and  his  hostess  held 
the  door  half-closed  behind  him.  Through  what  remained 
of  the  opening  he  saw  her  framed  face.  He  made  a  supreme 
appeal.  "What  did  he  do  to  you ? " 

330 


Henry  James 

"It  would  have  come  out — she  would  have  told  you. 
That  fear  at  my  heart — that  was  my  reason!'*  And  she 
closed  the  door,  shutting  him  out. 

VIII 

He  had  ruthlessly  abandoned  her — that  of  course  was 
what  he  had  done.  Stransom  made  it  all  out  in  solitude, 
at  leisure,  fitting  the  unmatched  pieces  gradually  together 
and  dealing  one  by  one  with  a  hundred  obscure  points. 
She  had  known  Hague  only  after  her  present  friend's  rela- 
tions with  him  had  wholly  terminated;  obviously  indeed 
a  good  while  after;  and  it  was  natural  enough  that  of  his 
previous  life  she  should  have  ascertained  only  what  he 
had  judged  good  to  communicate.  There  were  passages 
it  was  quite  conceivable  that  even  in  moments  of  the 
tenderest  expansion  he  should  have  withheld.  Of  many 
facts  in  the  career  of  a  man  so  in  the  eye  of  the  world  there 
was  of  course  a  common  knowledge;  but  this  lady  lived 
apart  from  public  affairs,  and  the  only  time  perfectly  clear 
to  her  would  have  been  the  time  following  the  dawn  of  her 
own  drama.  A  man  in  her  place  would  have  "looked  up" 
the  past — would  even  have  consulted  old  newspapers.  It 
remained  remarkable  indeed  that  in  her  long  contact  with 
the  partner  of  her  retrospect  no  accident  had  lighted  a 
train;  but  there  was  no  arguing  about  that;  the  accident 
had  in  fact  come:  it  had  simply  been  that  security  had 
prevailed.  She  had  taken  what  Hague  had  given  her,  and 
her  blankness  in  respect  of  his  other  connexions  was  only 
a  touch  in  the  picture  of  that  plasticity  Stransom  had 
supreme  reason  to  know  so  great  a  master  could  have  been 
trusted  to  produce. 

This  picture  was  for  a  while  all  our  friend  saw:  he  caught 
his  breath  again  and  again  as  it  came  over  him  that  the 
woman  with  whom  he  had  had  for  years  so  fine  a  point  of 
contact  was  a  woman  whom  Acton  Hague,  of  all  men  in 
the  world,  had  more  or  less  fashioned.  Such  as  she  sat 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

there  to-day  she  was  ineffaceably  stamped  with  him.  Be- 
neficent, blameless  as  Stransom  held  her,  he  couldn't  rid 
himself  of  the  sense  that  he  had  been,  as  who  should  say, 
swindled.  She  had  imposed  upon  him  hugely,  though  she 
had  known  it  as  little  as  he.  All  this  later  past  came  back 
to  him  as  a  time  grotesquely  misspent.  Such  at  least  were 
his  first  reflexions;  after  a  while  he  found  himself  more 
divided  and  only,  as  the  end  of  it,  more  troubled.  He 
imagined,  recalled,  reconstituted,  figured  out  for  himself 
the  truth  she  had  refused  to  give  him;  the  effect  of  which 
was  to  make  her  seem  to  him  only  more  saturated  with 
her  fate.  He  felt  her  spirit,  through  the  whole  strangeness, 
finer  than  his  own  to  the  very  degree  in  which  she  might 
have  been,  in  which  she  certainly  had  been,  more  wronged. 
A  woman,  when  wronged,  was  always  more  wronged  than 
a  man,  and  there  were  conditions  when  the  least  she  could 
have  got  off  with  was  more  than  the  most  he  could  have 
to  bear.  He  was  sure  this  rare  creature  wouldn't  have  got 
off  with  the  least.  He  was  awestruck  at  the  thought  of  such 
a  surrender — such  a  prostration.  Moulded  indeed  she  had 
been  by  powerful  hands,  to  have  converted  her  injury  into 
an  exaltation  so  sublime.  The  fellow  had  only  had  to  die 
for  everything  that  was  ugly  in  him  to  be  washed  out  in  a 
torrent.  It  was  vain  to  try  to  guess  what  had  taken  place, 
but  nothing  could  be  clearer  than  that  she  had  ended 
by  accusing  herself.  She  absolved  him  at  every  point,  she 
adored  her  very  wounds.  The  passion  by  which  he  had 
profited  had  rushed  back  after  its  ebb,  and  now  the  tide 
of  tenderness,  arrested  for  ever  at  flood,  was  too  deep  even 
to  fathom.  Stransom  sincerely  considered  that  he  had 
forgiven  him;  but  how  little  he  had  achieved  the  miracle 
that  she  had  achieved!  His  forgiveness  was  silence,  but 
hers  was  mere  unuttered  sound.  The  light  she  had  de- 
manded for  his  altar  would  have  broken  his  silence  with  a 
blare;  whereas  all  the  lights  in  the  church  were  for  her  too 
great  a  hush. 

332 


Henry  James 

She  had  been  right  about  the  difference — she  had  spoken 
the  truth  about  the  change:  Stransom  was  soon  to  know 
himself  as  perversely  but  sharply  jealous.  His  tide  had 
ebbed,  not  flowed;  if  he  had  "forgiven"  Acton  Hague,  that 
forgiveness  was  a  motive  with  a  broken  spring.  The  very 
fact  of  her  appeal  for  a  material  sign,  a  sign  that  should 
make  her  dead  lover  equal  there  with  the  others,  presented 
the  concession  to  her  friend  as  too  handsome  for  the  case. 
He  had  never  thought  of  himself  as  hard,  but  an  exorbitant 
article  might  easily  render  him  so.  He  moved  round  and 
round  this  one,  but  only  in  widening  circles — the  more 
he  looked  at  it  the  less  acceptable  it  seemed.  At  the  same 
time  he  had  no  illusion  about  the  effect  of  his  refusal;  he 
perfectly  saw  how  it  would  make  for  a  rupture.  He  left 
her  alone  a  week,  but  when  at  last  he  again  called  this 
conviction  was  cruelly  confirmed.  In  the  interval  he  had 
kept  away  from  the  church,  and  he  needed  no  fresh  assur- 
ance from  her  to  know  she  hadn't  entered  it.  The  change 
was  complete  enough:  it  had  broken  up  her  life.  Indeed  it 
had  broken  up  his,  for  all  the  fires  of  his  shrine  seemed  to 
him  suddenly  to  have  been  quenched.  A  great  indifference 
fell  upon  him,  the  weight  of  which  was  in  itself  a  pain; 
and  he  never  knew  what  his  devotion  had  been  for  him  till 
in  that  shock  it  ceased  like  a  dropped  watch.  Neither  did 
he  know  with  how  large  a  confidence  he  had  counted  on 
the  final  service  that  had  now  failed :  the  mortal  deception 
was  that  in  this  abandonment  the  whole  future  gave  way. 

These  days  of  her  absence  proved  to  him  of  what  she 
was  capable;  all  the  more  that  he  never  dreamed  she  was 
vindictive  or  even  resentful.  It  was  not  in  anger  she  had 
forsaken  him;  it  was  in  simple  submission  to  hard  reality, 
to  the  stern  logic  of  life.  This  came  home  to  him  when  he 
sat  with  her  again  in  the  room  in  which  her  late  aunt's 
conversation  lingered  like  the  tone  of  a  cracked  piano. 
She  tried  to  make  him  forget  how  much  they  were  es- 
tranged, but  in  the  very  presence  of  what  they  had  given 

333 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

up  it  was  impossible  not  to  be  sorry  for  her.  He  had  taken 
from  her  so  much  more  than  she  had  taken  from  him.  He 
argued  with  her  again,  told  her  she  could  now  have  the 
altar  to  herself;  but  she  only  shook  her  head  with  pleading 
sadness,  begging  him  not  to  waste  his  breath  on  the  im- 
possible, the  extinct.  Couldn't  he  see  that  in  relation  to  her 
private  need  the  rites  he  had  established  were  practically 
an  elaborate  exclusion?  She  regretted  nothing  that  had 
happened;  it  had  all  been  right  so  long  as  she  didn't  know, 
and  it  was  only  that  now  she  knew  too  much  and  that  from 
the  moment  their  eyes  were  open  they  would  simply  have 
to  conform.  It  had  doubtless  been  happiness  enough  for 
them  to  go  on  together  so  long.  She  was  gentle,  grateful, 
resigned;  but  this  was  only  the  form  of  a  deep  immove- 
ability.  He  saw  he  should  never  more  cross  the  threshold 
of  the  second  room,  and  he  felt  how  much  this  alone  would 
make  a  stranger  of  him  and  give  a  conscious  stiffness  to  his 
visits.  He  would  have  hated  to  plunge  again  into  that  well 
of  reminders,  but  he  enjoyed  quite  as  little  the  vacant 
alternative. 

After  he  had  been  with  her  three  or  four  times  it  struck 
him  that  to  have  come  at  last  into  her  house  had  had  the 
horrid  effect  of  diminishing  their  intimacy.  He  had  known 
her  better,  had  liked  her  in  greater  freedom,  when  they 
merely  walked  together  or  kneeled  together.  Now  they 
only  pretended;  before  they  had  been  nobly  sincere.  They 
began  to  try  their  walks  again,  but  it  proved  a  lame  imita- 
tion, for  these  things,  from  the  first,  beginning  or  ending, 
had  been  connected  with  their  visits  to  the  church.  They 
had  either  strolled  away  as  they  came  out  or  gone  in  to  rest 
on  the  return.  Stransom,  besides,  now  faltered;  he  couldn't 
walk  as  of  old.  The  omission  made  everything  false;  it 
was  a  dire  mutilation  of  their  lives.  Our  friend  was  frank 
and  monotonous,  making  no  mystery  of  his  remonstrance 
and  no  secret  of  his  predicament.  Her  response,  what- 
ever it  was,  always  came  to  the  same  thing — an  implied 

334 


Henry  James 

invitation  to  him  to  judge,  if  he  spoke  of  predicaments,  of 
how  much  comfort  she  had  in  hers.  For  him  indeed  was  no 
comfort  even  in  complaint,  since  every  allusion  to  what 
had  befallen  them  but  made  the  author  of  their  trouble 
more  present.  Acton  Hague  was  between  them — that  was 
the  essence  of  the  matter,  and  never  so  much  between  them 
as  when  they  were  face  to  face.  Then  Stransom,  while  still 
wanting  to  banish  him,  had  the  strangest  sense  of  striving 
for  an  ease  that  would  involve  having  accepted  him. 
Deeply  disconcerted  by  what  he  knew,  he  was  still  worse 
tormented  by  really  not  knowing.  Perfectly  aware  that  it 
would  have  been  horribly  vulgar  to  abuse  his  old  friend  or 
to  tell  his  companion  the  story  of  their  quarrel,  it  yet  vexed 
him  that  her  depth  of  reserve  should  give  him  no  opening 
and  should  have  the  effect  of  a  magnanimity  greater  even 
than  his  own. 

He  challenged  himself,  denounced  himself,  asked  himself 
if  he  were  in  love  with  her  that  he  should  care  so  much 
what  adventures  she  had  had.  He  had  never  for  a  moment 
allowed  he  was  in  love  with  her;  therefore  nothing  could 
have  surprised  him  more  than  to  discover  he  was  jealous. 
What  but  jealousy  could  give  a  man  that  sore  contentious 
wish  for  the  detail  of  what  would  make  him  suffer?  Well 
enough  he  knew  indeed  that  he  should  never  have  it  from 
the  only  person  who  to-day  could  give  it  to  him.  She  let 
him  press  her  with  his  sombre  eyes,  only  smiling  at  him 
with  an  exquisite  mercy  and  breathing  equally  little  the 
word  that  would  expose  her  secret  and  the  word  that  would 
appear  to  deny  his  literal  right  to  bitterness.  She  told 
nothing,  she  judged  nothing;  she  accepted  everything  but 
the  possibility  of  her  return  to  the  old  symbols.  Stransom 
divined  that  for  her  too  they  had  been  vividly  individual, 
had  stood  for  particular  hours  or  particular  attributes — 
particular  links  in  her  chain.  He  made  it  clear  to  himself, 
as  he  believed,  that  his  difficulty  lay  in  the  fact  that  the 
very  nature  of  the  plea  for  his  faithless  friend  constituted 

335 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

a  prohibition;  that  it  happened  to  have  come  from  her 
was  precisely  the  vice  that  attached  to  it.  To  the  voice  of 
impersonal  generosity  he  felt  sure  he  would  have  listened; 
he  would  have  deferred  to  an  advocate  who,  speaking  from 
abstract  justice,  knowing  of  his  denial  without  having 
known  Hague,  should  have  had  the  imagination  to  say: 
"Ah,  remember  only  the  best  of  him;  pity  him;  provide  for 
him."  To  provide  for  him  on  the  very  ground  of  having 
discovered  another  of  his  turpitudes  was  not  to  pity  but 
to  glorify  him.  The  more  Stransom  thought  the  more  he 
made  out  that  whatever  this  relation  of  Hague's  it  could 
only  have  been  a  deception  more  or  less  finely  practised. 
Where  had  it  come  into  the  life  that  all  men  saw?  Why 
had  one  never  heard  of  it  if  it  had  had  the  frankness  of 
honourable  things?  Stransom  knew  enough  of  his  other 
ties,  of  his  obligations  and  appearances,  not  to  say  enough 
of  his  general  character,  to  be  sure  there  had  been  some 
infamy.  In  one  way  or  another  this  creature  had  been 
coldly  sacrificed.  That  was  why  at  the  last  as  well  as  the 
first  he  must  still  leave  him  out  and  out. 

IX 

And  yet  this  was  no  solution,  especially  after  he  had 
talked  again  to  his  friend  of  all  it  had  been  his  plan  she 
should  finally  do  for  him.  He  had  talked  in  the  other  days, 
and  she  had  responded  with  a  frankness  qualified  only  by 
a  courteous  reluctance,  a  reluctance  that  touched  him,  to 
linger  on  the  question  of  his  death.  She  had  then  prac- 
tically accepted  the  charge,  suffered  him  to  feel  he  could 
depend  upon  her  to  be  the  eventual  guardian  of  his  shrine; 
and  it  was  in  the  name  of  what  had  so  passed  between  them 
that  he  appealed  to  her  not  to  forsake  him  in  his  age.  She 
listened  at  present  with  shining  coldness  and  all  her  habit- 
ual forbearance  to  insist  on  her  terms;  her  deprecation  was 
even  still  tenderer,  for  it  expressed  the  compassion  of  her 
own  sense  that  he  was  abandoned.  Her  terms,  however, 

336 


Henry  James 

remained  the  same,  and  scarcely  the  less  audible  for  not 
being  uttered;  though  he  was  sure  that  secretly  even  more 
than  he  she  felt  bereft  of  the  satisfaction  his  solemn  trust 
was  to  have  provided  her.  They  both  missed  the  rich 
future,  but  she  missed  it  most,  because  after  all  it  was  to 
have  been  entirely  hers;  and  it  was  her  acceptance  of  the 
loss  that  gave  him  the  full  measure  of  her  preference  for 
the  thought  of  Acton  Hague  over  any  other  thought  what- 
ever. He  had  humour  enough  to  laugh  rather  grimly  when 
he  said  to  himself:  "Why  the  deuce  does  she  like  him  so 
much  more  than  she  likes  me?" — the  reasons  being  really 
so  conceivable.  But  even  his  faculty  of  analysis  left  the 
irritation  standing,  and  this  irritation  proved  perhaps  the 
greatest  misfortune  that  had  ever  overtaken  him.  There 
had  been  nothing  yet  that  made  him  so  much  want  to  give 
up.  He  had  of  course  by  this  time  well  reached  the  age  of 
renouncement;  but  it  had  not  hitherto  been  vivid  to  him 
that  it  was  time  to  give  up  everything. 

Practically,  at  the  end  of  six  months,  he  had  renounced 
the  friendship  once  so  charming  and  comforting.  His 
privation  had  two  faces,  and  the  face  it  had  turned  to  him 
on  the  occasion  of  his  last  attempt  to  cultivate  that  friend- 
ship was  the  one  he  could  look  at  least.  This  was  the  priva- 
tion he  inflicted;  the  other  was  the  privation  he  bore.  The 
conditions  she  never  phrased  he  used  to  murmur  to  himself 
in  solitude:  "One  more,  one  more — only  just  one."  Cer- 
tainly he  was  going  down;  he  often  felt  it  when  he  caught 
himself,  over  his  work,  staring  at  vacancy  and  giving  voice 
to  that  inanity.  There  was  proof  enough  besides  in  his 
being  so  weak  and  so  ill.  His  irritation  took  the  form  of 
melancholy,  and  his  melancholy  that  of  the  conviction  that 
his  health  had  quite  failed.  His  altar  moreover  had  ceased 
to  exist;  his  chapel,  in  his  dreams,  was  a  great  dark  cavern. 
All  the  lights  had  gone  out — all  his  Dead  had  died  again. 
He  couldn't  exactly  see  at  first  how  it  had  been  in  the 
power  of  his  late  companion  to  extinguish  them,  since  it 

337 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

was  neither  for  her  nor  by  her  that  they  had  been  called 
into  being.  Then  he  understood  that  it  was  essentially  in 
his  own  soul  the  revival  had  taken  place,  and  that  in  the 
air  of  this  soul  they  were  now  unable  to  breathe.  The 
candles  might  mechanically  burn,  but  each  of  them  had 
lost  its  lustre.  The  church  had  become  a  void;  it  was  his 
presence,  her  presence,  their  common  presence,  that  had 
made  the  indispensable  medium.  If  anything  was  wrong 
everything  was — her  silence  spoiled  the  tune. 

Then  when  three  months  were  gone  he  felt  so  lonely 
that  he  went  back;  reflecting  that  as  they  had  been  his  best 
society  for  years  his  Dead  perhaps  wouldn't  let  him  forsake 
them  without  doing  something  more  for  him.  They  stood 
there,  as  he  had  left  them,  in  their  tall  radiance,  the  bright 
cluster  that  had  already  made  him,  on  occasions  when  he 
was  willing  to  compare  small  things  with  great,  liken  them 
to  a  group  of  sea-lights  on  the  edge  of  the  ocean  of  life.  It 
was  a  relief  to  him,  after  a  while,  as  he  sat  there,  to  feel 
they  had  still  a  virtue.  He  was  more  and  more  easily  tired, 
and  he  always  drove  now;  the  action  of  his  heart  was  weak 
and  gave  him  none  of  the  reassurance  conferred  by  the 
action  of  his  fancy.  None  the  less  he  returned  yet  again, 
returned  several  times,  and  finally,  during  six  months, 
haunted  the  place  with  a  renewal  of  frequency  and  a 
strain  of  impatience.  In  winter  the  church  was  unwarmed 
and  exposure  to  cold  forbidden  him,  but  the  glow  of  his 
shrine  was  an  influence  in  which  he  could  almost  bask.  He 
sat  and  wondered  to  what  he  had  reduced  his  absent  asso- 
ciate and  what  she  now  did  with  the  hours  of  her  absence. 
There  were  other  churches,  there  were  other  altars,  there 
were  other  candles;  in  one  way  or  another  her  piety  would 
still  operate;  he  couldn't  absolutely  have  deprived  her  of 
her  rites.  So  he  argued,  but  without  contentment;  for  he 
well  enough  knew  there  was  no  other  such  rare  semblance 
of  the  mountain  of  light  she  had  once  mentioned  to  him  as 
the  satisfaction  of  her  need.  As  this  semblance  again 

338 


Henry  James 

gradually  grew  great  to  him  and  his  pious  practice  more 
regular,  he  found  a  sharper  and  sharper  pang  in  the  imag- 
ination of  her  darkness;  for  never  so  much  as  in  these 
weeks  had  his  rites  been  real,  never  had  his  gathered  com- 
pany seemed  so  to  respond  and  even  to  invite.  He  lost 
himself  in  the  large  lustre,  which  was  more  and  more  what 
he  had  from  the  first  wished  it  to  be — as  dazzling  as  the 
vision  of  heaven  in  the  mind  of  a  child.  He  wandered  in 
the  fields  of  light;  he  passed,  among  the  tall  tapers,  from 
tier  to  tier,  from  fire  to  fire,  from  name  to  name,  from  the 
white  intensity  of  one  clear  emblem,  of  one  saved  soul,  to 
another.  It  was  in  the  quiet  sense  of  having  saved  his 
souls  that  his  deep  strange  instinct  rejoiced.  This  was  no 
dim  theological  rescue,  no  boon  of  a  contingent  world; 
they  were  saved  better  than  faith  or  works  could  save 
them,  saved  for  the  warm  world  they  had  shrunk  from 
dying  to,  for  actuality,  for  continuity,  for  the  certainty  of 
human  remembrance. 

By  this  time  he  had  survived  all  his  friends;  the  last 
straight  flame  was  three  years  old,  there  was  no  one  to  add 
to  the  list.  Over  and  over  he  called  his  roll,  and  it  appeared 
to  him  compact  and  complete.  Where  should  he  put  in 
another,  where,  if  there  were  no  other  objection,  would 
it  stand  in  its  place  in  the  rank?  He  reflected,  with  a  want 
of  sincerity  of  which  he  was  quite  conscious,  that  it  would 
be  difficult  to  determine  that  place.  More  and  more,  be- 
sides, face  to  face  with  his  little  legion,  reading  over  endless 
histories,  handling  the  empty  shells  and  playing  with  the 
silence — more  and  more  he  could  see  that  he  had  never 
introduced  an  alien.  He  had  had  his  great  compassions, 
his  indulgences — there  were  cases  in  which  they  had  been 
immense;  but  what  had  his  devotion  after  all  been  if  it 
hadn't  been  at  bottom  a  respect?  He  was,  however,  him- 
self surprised  at  his  stiffness;  by  the  end  of  the  winter 
the  responsibility  of  it  was  what  was  uppermost  in  his 
thoughts.  The  refrain  had  grown  old  to  them,  that  plea 

339 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

for  just  one  more.  There  came  a  day  when,  for  simple 
exhaustion,  if  symmetry  should  demand  just  one  he  was 
ready  so  far  to  meet  symmetry.  Symmetry  was  harmony, 
and  the  idea  of  harmony  began  to  haunt  him;  he  said  to 
himself  that  harmony  was  of  course  everything.  He  took, 
in  fancy,  his  composition  to  pieces,  redistributing  it  into 
other  lines,  making  other  juxtapositions  and  contrasts. 
He  shifted  this  and  that  candle,  he  made  the  spaces  differ- 
ent, he  effaced  the  disfigurement  of  a  possible  gap.  There 
were  subtle  and  complex  relations,  a  scheme  of  cross- 
reference,  and  moments  in  which  he  seemed  to  catch  a 
glimpse  of  the  void  so  sensible  to  the  woman  who  wandered 
in  exile  or  sat  where  he  had  seen  her  with  the  portrait  of 
Acton  Hague.  Finally,  in  this  way,  he  arrived  at  a  con- 
ception of  the  total,  the  ideal,  which  left  a  clear  opportu- 
nity for  just  another  figure.  "Just  one  more — to  round  it 
off;  just  one  more,  just  one,"  continued  to  hum  in  his  head. 
There  was  a  strange  confusion  in  the  thought,  for  he  felt 
the  day  to  be  near  when  he  too  should  be  one  of  the  Others. 
What  in  this  event  would  the  Others  matter  to  him,  since 
they  only  mattered  to  the  living?  Even  as  one  of  the 
Dead  what  would  his  altar  matter  to  him,  since  his  par- 
ticular dream  of  keeping  it  up  had  melted  away?  What 
had  harmony  to  do  with  the  case  if  his  lights  were  all  to  be 
quenched  ?  What  he  had  hoped  for  was  an  instituted  thing. 
He  might  perpetuate  it  on  some  other  pretext,  but  his 
special  meaning  would  have  dropped.  This  meaning  was 
to  have  lasted  with  the  life  of  the  one  other  person  who 
understood  it. 

In  March  he  had  an  illness  during  which  he  spent  a  fort- 
night in  bed,  and  when  he  revived  a  little  he  was  told  of 
two  things  that  had  happened.  One  was  that  a  lady  whose 
name  was  not  known  to  the  servants  (she  left  none)  had 
been  three  times  to  ask  about  him;  the  other  was  that  in 
his  sleep  and  on  an  occasion  when  his  mind  evidently 
wandered  he  was  heard  to  murmur  again  and  again:  "Just 

340 


Henry  James 

one  more — just  one."  As  soon  as  he  found  himself  able  to 
go  out,  and  before  the  doctor  in  attendance  had  pro- 
nounced him  so,  he  drove  to  see  the  lady  who  had  come  to 
ask  about  him.  She  was  not  at  home;  but  this  gave  him 
the  opportunity,  before  his  strength  should  fail  again,  to 
take  his  way  to  the  church.  He  entered  it  alone;  he  had 
declined,  in  a  happy  manner  he  possessed  of  being  able  to 
decline  effectively,  the  company  of  his  servant  or  of  a 
nurse.  He  knew  now  perfectly  what  these  good  people 
thought;  they  had  discovered  his  clandestine  connexion, 
the  magnet  that  had  drawn  him  for  so  many  years,  and 
doubtless  attached  a  significance  of  their  own  to  the  odd 
words  they  had  repeated  to  him.  The  nameless  lady  was 
the  clandestine  connexion — a  fact  nothing  could  have 
made  clearer  than  his  indecent  haste  to  rejoin  her.  He 
sank  on  his  knees  before  his  altar  while  his  head  fell  over 
on  his  hands.  His  weakness,  his  life's  weariness  overtook 
him.  It  seemed  to  him  he  had  come  for  the  great  surrender. 
At  first  he  asked  himself  how  he  should  get  away;  then, 
with  the  failing  belief  in  the  power,  the  very  desire  to  move 
gradually  left  him.  He  had  come,  as  he  always  came,  to 
lose  himself;  the  fields  of  light  were  still  there  to  stray  in; 
only  this  time,  in  straying,  he  would  never  come  back.  He 
had  given  himself  to  his  Dead,  and  it  was  good:  this  time 
his  Dead  would  keep  him.  He  couldn't  rise  from  his  knees; 
he  believed  he  should  never  rise  again;  all  he  could  do  was 
to  lift  his  face  and  fix  his  eyes  on  his  lights.  They  looked 
unusually,  strangely  splendid,  but  the  one  that  always 
drew  him  most  had  an  unprecedented  lustre.  It  was  the 
central  voice  of  the  choir,  the  glowing  heart  of  the  bright- 
ness, and  on  this  occasion  it  seemed  to  expand,  to  spread 
great  wings  of  flame.  The  whole  altar  flared — dazzling  and 
blinding;  but  the  source  of  the  vast  radiance  burned  clearer 
than  the  rest,  gathering  itself  into  form,  and  the  form  was 
human  beauty  and  human  charity,  was  the  far-off  face  of 
Mary  Antrim.  She  smiled  at  him  from  the  glory  of  heaven 


The  Altar  of  the  Dead 

— she  brought  the  glory  down  with  her  to  take  him.  He 
bowed  his  head  in  submission  and  at  the  same  moment 
another  wave  rolled  over  him.  Was  it  the  quickening  of 
joy  to  pain?  In  the  midst  of  his  joy  at  any  rate  he  felt  his 
buried  face  grow  hot  as  with  some  communicated  knowl- 
edge that  had  the  force  of  a  reproach.  It  suddenly  made 
him  contrast  that  very  rapture  with  the  bliss  he  had  re- 
fused to  another.  This  breath  of  the  passion  immortal 
was  all  that  other  had  asked;  the  descent  of  Mary  Antrim 
opened  his  spirit  with  a  great  compunctious  throb  for  the 
descent  of  Acton  Hague.  It  was  as  if  Stransom  had  read 
what  her  eyes  said  to  him. 

After  a  moment  he  looked  round  in  a  despair  that  made 
him  feel  as  if  the  source  of  life  were  ebbing.  The  church 
had  been  empty — he  was  alone;  but  he  wanted  to  have 
something  done,  to  make  a  last  appeal.  This  idea  gave  him 
strength  for  an  effort;  he  rose  to  his  feet  with  a  movement 
that  made  him  turn,  supporting  himself  by  the  back  of  a 
bench.  Behind  him  was  a  prostrate  figure,  a  figure  he  had 
seen  before;  a  woman  in  deep  mourning,  bowed  in  grief  or 
in  prayer.  He  had  seen  her  in  other  days — the  first  time  of 
his  entrance  there,  and  he  now  slightly  wavered,  looking  at 
her  again  till  she  seemed  aware  he  had  noticed  her.  She 
raised  her  head  and  met  his  eyes:  the  partner  of  his  long 
worship  had  come  back.  She  looked  across  at  him  an 
instant  with  a  face  wondering  and  scared;  he  saw  he  had 
made  her  afraid.  Then  quickly  rising  she  came  straight  to 
him  with  both  hands  out. 

"Then  you  could  come?  God  sent  you!"  he  murmured 
with  a  happy  smile. 

"You're  very  ill — you  shouldn't  be  here,"  she  urged  in 
anxious  reply. 

"God  sent  me  too,  I  think.  I  was  ill  when  I  came,  but 
the  sight  of  you  does  wonders."  He  held  her  hands,  which 
steadied  and  quickened  him.  "I've  something  to  tell  you." 

"Don't  tell  me!"  she  tenderly  pleaded;  "let  me  tell  you. 

34* 


Henry  James 

This  afternoon,  by  a  miracle,  the  sweetest  of  miracles,  the 
sense  of  our  difference  left  me.  I  was  out — I  was  near, 
thinking,  wandering  alone,  when,  on  the  spot,  something 
changed  in  my  heart.  It's  my  confession — there  it  is.  To 
come  back,  to  come  back  on  the  instant — the  idea  gave 
me  wings.  It  was  as  if  I  suddenly  saw  something — as  if  it 
all  became  possible.  I  could  come  for  what  you  yourself 
came  for:  that  was  enough.  So  here  I  am.  It's  not  for  my 
own — that's  over.  But  I'm  here  for  them"  And  breath- 
less, infinitely  relieved  by  her  low  precipitate  explanation, 
she  looked  with  eyes  that  reflected  all  its  splendour  at  the 
magnificence  of  their  altar. 

"They're  here  for  you,"  Stransom  said,  "they're  present 
to-night  as  they've  never  been.  They  speak  for  you — 
don't  you  see? — in  a  passion  of  light;  they  sing  out  like  a 
choir  of  angels.  Don't  you  hear  what  they  say? — they 
offer  the  very  thing  you  asked  of  me." 

"Don't  talk  of  it — don't  think  of  it;  forget  it!"  She 
spoke  in  hushed  supplication,  and  while  the  alarm  deep- 
ened in  her  eyes  she  disengaged  one  of  her  hands  and 
passed  an  arm  round  him  to  support  him  better,  to  help 
him  to  sink  into  a  seat. 

He  let  himself  go,  resting  on  her;  he  dropped  upon  the 
bench  and  she  fell  on  her  knees  beside  him,  his  own  arm 
round  her  shoulder.  So  he  remained  an  instant,  staring  up 
at  his  shrine.  "They  say  there's  a  gap  in  the  array — they 
say  it's  not  full,  complete.  Just  one  more,"  he  went  on, 
softly — "isn't  that  what  you  wanted?  Yes,  one  more,  one 


more." 


"Ah  no  more — no  more!"  she  wailed,  as  with  a  quick 
new  horror  of  it,  under  her  breath. 

"Yes,  one  more,"  he  repeated,  simply;  "just  one!" 
And  with  this  his  head  dropped  on  her  shoulder;  she  felt 
that  in  his  weakness  he  had  fainted.  But  alone  with  him 
in  the  dusky  church  a  great  dread  was  on  her  of  what  might 
still  happen,  for  his  face  had  the  whiteness  of  death. 

343 


THE  PRINCESS 
by 

Anton  Chekhov 


ANTON  PAVLOVICH  CHEKHOV  (1860-1904)  was  equally 
distinguished  as  playwright  and  writer  of  fiction.  The  best 
translation  of  his  stories  is  that  by  Constance  Garnett,  in 
Jj  volumes.  His  plays,  like  the  First  Moscow  Art  Theatre 
which  produced  them,  have  survived  the  Revolution;  they 
have  become  classics  of  the  Soviet  theatre.  His  home  at 
Yalta,  in  the  Crimea,  is  maintained  as  a  museum  of  his 
personal  and  literary  life. 


THE  PRINCESS 

A  CARRIAGE  with  four  fine  sleek  horses  drove  in  at 
the  big  so-called  Red  Gate  of  the  N Mon- 
astery. While  it  was  still  at  a  distance,  the  priests 
and  monks  who  were  standing  in  a  group  round  the  part 
of  the  hostel  allotted  to  the  gentry,  recognized  by  the 
coachman  and  horses  that  the  lady  in  the  carriage  was 
Princess  Vera  Gavrilovna,  whom  they  knew  very  well. 

An  old  man  in  livery  jumped  off  the  box  and  helped 
the  princess  to  get  out  of  the  carriage.  She  raised  her 
dark  veil  and  moved  in  a  leisurely  way  up  to  the  priests 
to  receive  their  blessing;  then  she  nodded  pleasantly  to 
the  rest  of  the  monks  and  went  into  the  hostel. 

"Well,  have  you  missed  your  princess?"  she  said  to 
the  monk  who  brought  in  her  things.  "It's  a  whole  month 
since  I've  been  to  see  you.  But  here  I  am;  behold  your 
princess.  And  where  is  the  Father  Superior?  My  good- 
ness, I  am  burning  with  impatience!  Wonderful,  won- 
derful old  man!  You  must  be  proud  of  having  such  a 
Superior." 

When  the  Father  Superior  came  in,  the  princess  uttered 
a  shriek  of  delight,  crossed  her  arms  over  her  bosom,  and 
went  up  to  receive  his  blessing. 

"No,  no,  let  me  kiss  your  hand,"  she  said,  snatching  it 
and  eagerly  kissing  it  three  times.  "How  glad  I  am  to  see 
you  at  last,  holy  Father!  I'm  sure  you've  forgotten  your 
princess,  but  my  thoughts  have  been  in  your  dear  mon- 
astery every  moment.  How  delightful  it  is  here!  This 
living  for  God  far  from  the  busy,  giddy  world  has  a  special 

From  The  Duel  and  Other  Stories,  by  Anton  Chekhov,  translated  by  Constance 
Garnett  and  published  by  The  Macmillan  Company,  New  York,  from  whom 
permission  to  reprint  has  been  obtained. 

347 


The  Princess 

charm  of  its  own,  holy  Father,  which  I  feel  with  my  whole 
soul  although  I  cannot  express  it!" 

The  princess's  cheeks  glowed  and  tears  came  into  her 
eyes.  She  talked  incessantly,  fervently,  while  the  Father 
Superior,  a  grave,  plain,  shy  old  man  of  seventy,  remained 
mute  or  uttered  abruptly,  like  a  soldier  on  duty,  phrases 
such  as: 

"Certainly,  Your  Excellency.  .  .  .  Quite  so.  I  under- 
stand." 

"Has  Your  Excellency  come  for  a  long  stay?"  he  in- 
quired. 

"I  shall  stay  the  night  here,  and  to-morrow  I'm  going 
on  to  Klavdia  Nikolaevna's — it's  a  long  time  since  I've 
seen  her — and  the  day  after  to-morrow  I'll  come  back  to 
you  and  stay  three  or  four  days.  I  want  to  rest  my  soul 
here  among  you,  holy  Father.  .  .  ." 

The  princess  liked  being  at  the  monastery  at  N . 

For  the  last  two  years  it  had  been  a  favourite  resort  of 
hers;  she  used  to  go  there  almost  every  month  in  the 
summer  and  stay  two  or  three  days,  even  sometimes  a 
week.  The  shy  novices,  the  stillness,  the  low  ceilings, 
the  smell  of  cypress,  the  modest  fare,  the  cheap  curtains 
on  the  windows — all  this  touched  her,  softened  her,  and 
disposed  her  to  contemplation  and  good  thoughts.  It  was 
enough  for  her  to  be  half  an  hour  in  the  hostel  for  her  to 
feel  that  she,  too,  was  timid  and  modest,  and  that  she, 
too,  smelt  of  cypress-wood.  The  past  retreated  into  the 
background,  lost  its  significance,  and  the  princess  began 
to  imagine  that  in  spite  of  her  twenty-nine  years  she  was 
very  much  like  the  old  Father  Superior,  and  that,  like 
him,  she  was  created  not  for  wealth,  not  for  earthly  gran- 
deur and  love,  but  for  a  peaceful  life  secluded  from  the 
world,  a  life  in  twilight  like  the  hostel. 

It  happens  that  a  ray  of  light  gleams  in  the  dark  cell 
of  the  anchorite  absorbed  in  prayer,  or  a  bird  alights  on 
the  window  and  sings  its  song;  the  stern  anchorite  will 

348 


Anton  Chekhov 

smile  in  spite  of  himself,  and  a  gentle,  sinless  joy  will 
pierce  through  the  load  of  grief  over  his  sins,  like  water 
flowing  from  under  a  stone.  The  princess  fancied  she 
brought  from  the  outside  world  just  such  comfort  as  the 
ray  of  light  or  the  bird.  Her  gay,  friendly  smile,  her 
gentle  eyes,  her  voice,  her  jests,  her  whole  personality 
in  fact,  her  little  graceful  figure  always  dressed  in  simple 
black,  must  arouse  in  simple,  austere  people  a  feeling  of 
tenderness  and  joy.  Everyone,  looking  at  her,  must  think: 
"God  has  sent  us  an  angel.  .  .  ."  And  feeling  that  no 
one  could  help  thinking  this,  she  smiled  still  more  cordially, 
and  tried  to  look  like  a  bird. 

After  drinking  tea  and  resting,  she  went  for  a  walk. 
The  sun  was  already  setting.  From  the  monastery  garden 
came  a  moist  fragrance  of  freshly  watered  mignonette, 
and  from  the  church  floated  the  soft  singing  of  men's 
voices,  which  seemed  very  pleasant  and  mournful  in  the 
distance.  It  was  the  evening  service.  In  the  dark  windows 
where  the  little  lamps  glowed  gently,  in  the  shadows,  in 
the  figure  of  the  old  monk  sitting  at  the  church  door  with 
a  collecting-box,  there  was  such  unruffled  peace  that  the 
princess  felt  moved  to  tears. 

Outside  the  gate,  in  the  walk  between  the  wall  and  the 
birch-trees  where  there  were  benches,  it  was  quite  eve- 
ning. The  air  grew  rapidly  darker  and  darker.  The 
princess  went  along  the  walk,  sat  on  a  seat,  and  sank  into 
thought. 

She  thought  how  good  it  would  be  to  settle  down  for 
her  whole  life  in  this  monastery  where  life  was  as  still 
and  unruffled  as  a  summer  evening;  how  good  it  would 
be  to  forget  the  ungrateful,  dissipated  prince;  to  forget 
her  immense  estates,  the  creditors  who  worried  her  every 
day,  her  misfortunes,  her  maid  Dasha,  who  had  looked 
at  her  impertinently  that  morning.  It  would  be  nice  to 
sit  here  on  the  bench  all  her  life  and  watch  through  the 
trunks  of  the  birch-trees  the  evening  mist  gathering  in 

349 


The  Princess 

wreaths  in  the  valley  below;  the  rooks  flying  home  in  a 
black  cloud  like  a  veil  far,  far  away  above  the  forest;  two 
novices,  one  astride  a  piebald  horse,  another  on  foot  driv- 
ing out  the  horses  for  the  night  and  rejoicing  in  their 
freedom,  playing  pranks  like  little  children;  their  youthful 
voices  rang  out  musically  in  the  still  air,  and  she  could 
distinguish  every  word.  It  is  nice  to  sit  and  listen  to  the 
silence :  at  one  moment  the  wind  blows  and  stirs  the  tops 
of  the  birch-trees,  then  a  frog  rustles  in  last  year's  leaves, 
then  the  clock  on  the  belfry  strikes  the  quarter.  .  .  . 
One  might  sit  without  moving,  listen  and  think,  and 
think.  .  .  . 

An  old  woman  passed  by  with  a  wallet  on  her  back. 
The  princess  thought  that  it  would  be  nice  to  stop  the 
old  woman  and  to  say  something  friendly  and  cordial  to 
her,  to  help  her.  .  .  .  But  the  old  woman  turned  the 
corner  without  once  looking  round. 

Not  long  afterwards  a  tall  man  with  a  grey  beard  and 
a  straw  hat  came  along  the  walk.  When  he  came  up  to 
the  princess,  he  took  off  his  hat  and  bowed.  From  the 
bald  patch  on  his  head  and  his  sharp,  hooked  nose  the 
princess  recognized  him  as  the  doctor,  Mihail  Ivanovitch, 
who  had  been  in  her  service  at  Dubovki.  She  remembered 
that  someone  had  told  her  that  his  wife  had  died  the  year 
before,  and  she  wanted  to  sympathize  with  him,  to  console 
him. 

"Doctor,  I  expect  you  don't  recognize  me?"  she  said 
with  an  affable  smile. 

"Yes,  Princess,  I  recognized  you,"  said  the  doctor, 
taking  off  his  hat  again. 

"Oh,  thank  you;  I  was  afraid  that  you,  too,  had  for- 
gotten your  princess.  People  only  remember  their  en- 
emies, but  they  forget  their  friends.  Have  you,  too,  come 
to  pray?" 

"I  am  the  doctor  here,  and  I  have  to  spend  the  night 
at  the  monastery  every  Saturday." 

350 


Anton  Chekhov 

"Well,  how  are  you?"  said  the  princess,  sighing.  "I 
hear  that  you  have  lost  your  wife.  What  a  calamity!" 

"Yes,  Princess,  for  me  it  is  a  great  calamity." 

"There's  nothing  for  it!  We  must  bear  our  troubles 
with  resignation.  Not  one  hair  of  a  man's  head  is  lost 
without  the  Divine  Will." 

"Yes,  Princess." 

To  the  princess's  friendly,  gentle  smile  and  her  sighs 
the  doctor  responded  coldly  and  dryly:  "Yes,  Princess." 
And  the  expression  of  his  face  was  cold  and  dry. 

"What  else  can  I  say  to  him?"  she  wondered. 

"How  long  it  is  since  we  met!"  she  said.  "Five  years! 
How  much  water  has  flowed  under  the  bridge,  how  many 
changes  in  that  time;  it  quite  frightens  one  to  think  of  it! 
You  know,  I  am  married.  ...  I  am  not  a  countess  now, 
but  a  princess.  And  by  now  I  am  separated  from  my 
husband  too." 

"Yes,  I  heard  so." 

"God  has  sent  me  many  trials.  No  doubt  you  have 
heard,  too,  that  I  am  almost  ruined.  My  Duboyki, 
Sofyino,  and  Kiryakovo  have  all  been  sold  for  my  un- 
happy husband's  debts.  And  I  have  only  Baranovo  and 
Mihaltsevo  left.  It's  terrible  to  look  back:  how  many 
changes  and  misfortunes  of  all  kinds,  how  many  mis- 
takes!" 

"Yes,  Princess,  many  mistakes." 

The  princess  was  a  little  disconcerted.  She  knew  her 
mistakes;  they  were  all  of  such  a  private  character  that 
no  one  but  she  could  think  or  speak  of  them.  She  could 
not  resist  asking: 

"What  mistakes  are  you  thinking  about?" 

"You  referred  to  them,  so  you  know  them  .  .  ."  an- 
swered the  doctor,  and  he  smiled.  "Why  talk  about  them!" 

"No;  tell  me,  doctor.  I  shall  be  very  grateful  to  you. 
And  please  don't  stand  on  ceremony  with  me.  I  love  to 
hear  the  truth." 


The  Princess 

"I  am  not  your  judge,  Princess." 

"Not  my  judge!  What  a  tone  you  take!  You  must 
know  something  about  me.  Tell  me!" 

"If  you  really  wish  it,  very  well.  Only  I  regret  to  say 
I'm  not  clever  at  talking,  and  people  can't  always  under- 
stand me." 

The  doctor  thought  a  moment  and  began: 

"A  lot  of  mistakes;  but  the  most  important  of  them, 
in  my  opinion,  was  the  general  spirit  that  prevailed  on 
all  your  estates.  You  see,  I  don't  know  how  to  express 
myself.  I  mean  chiefly  the  lack  of  love,  the  aversion  for 
people  that  was  felt  in  absolutely  everything.  Your  whole 
system  of  life  was  built  upon  that  aversion.  Aversion 
for  the  human  voice,  for  faces,  for  heads,  steps  ...  in 
fact,  for  everything  that  makes  up  a  human  being.  At 
all  the  doors  and  on  the  stairs  there  stand  sleek,  rude, 
and  lazy  grooms  in  livery  to  prevent  badly  dressed  per- 
sons from  entering  the  house;  in  the  hall  there  are  chairs 
with  high  backs  so  that  the  footmen  waiting  there,  during 
balls  and  receptions,  may  not  soil  the  walls  with  their 
heads;  in  every  room  there  are  thick  carpets  that  no  hu- 
man step  may  be  heard;  everyone  who  comes  in  is  infal- 
libly warned  to  speak  as  softly  and  as  little  as  possible, 
and  to  say  nothing  that  might  have  a  disagreeable  effect 
on  the  nerves  or  the  imagination.  And  in  your  room  you 
don't  shake  hands  with  anyone  or  ask  him  to  sit  down — 
just  as  you  didn't  shake  hands  with  me  or  ask  me  to 
sit  down.  .  .  ." 

"By  all  means,  if  you  like,"  said  the  princess,  smiling 
and  holding  out  her  hand.  "Really,  to  be  cross  about 
such  trifles  .  .  ." 

"But  I  am  not  cross,"  laughed  the  doctor,  but  at  once 
he  flushed,  took  off  his  hat,  and  waving  it  about,  began 
hotly:  "To  be  candid,  I've  long  wanted  an  opportunity 
to  tell  you  all  I  think.  .  .  .  That  is,  I  want  to  tell  you 
that  you  look  upon  the  mass  of  mankind  from  the  Napo- 

35* 


Anton  Chekhov 

Iconic  standpoint  as  food  for  the  cannon.    But  Napoleon 
had  at  least  some  idea;  you  have  nothing  except  aver- 


sion." 


"I  have  an  aversion  for  people?"  smiled  the  princess, 
shrugging  her  shoulders  in  astonishment.  "I  have!" 

"Yes,  you!  You  want  facts?  By  all  means.  In  Mihalt- 
sevo  three  former  cooks  of  yours,  who  have  gone  blind 
in  your  kitchens  from  the  heat  of  the  stove,  are  living 
upon  charity.  All  the  health  and  strength  and  good  looks 
that  is  found  on  your  hundreds  of  thousands  of  acres  is 
taken  by  you  and  your  parasites  for  your  grooms,  your 
footmen,  and  your  coachmen.  All  these  two-legged  cattle 
are  trained  to  be  flunkeys,  overeat  themselves,  grow  coarse, 
lose  the 'image  and  likeness,' in  fact.  .  .  .  Young  doctors, 
agricultural  experts,  teachers,  intellectual  workers  gen- 
erally— think  of  it! — are  torn  away  from  their  honest 
work  and  forced  for  a  crust  of  bread  to  take  part  in  all 
sorts  of  mummeries  which  make  every  decent  man  feel 
ashamed!  Some  young  men  cannot  be  in  your  service 
for  three  years  without  becoming  hypocrites,  toadies, 
sneaks.  ...  Is  that  a  good  thing?  Your  Polish  superin- 
tendents, those  abject  spies,  all  those  Kazimers  and  Kaet- 
ans,  go  hunting  about  on  your  hundreds  of  thousands  of 
acres  from  morning  to  night,  and  to  please  you  try  to 
get  three  skins  off  one  ox.  Excuse  me,  I  speak  discon- 
nectedly, but  that  doesn't  matter.  You  don't  look  upon 
the  simple  people  as  human  beings.  And  even  the  princes, 
counts,  and  bishops  who  used  to  come  and  see  you,  you 
looked  upon  simply  as  decorative  figures,  not  as  living 
beings.  But  the  worst  of  all,  the  thing  that  most  revolts 
me,  is  having  a  fortune  of  over  a  million  and  doing  nothing 
for  other  people,  nothing!" 

The  princess  sat  amazed,  aghast,  offended,  not  knowing 
what  to  say  or  how  to  behave.  She  had  never  before  been 
spoken  to  in  such  a  tone.  The  doctor's  unpleasant,  angry 
voice  and  his  clumsy,  faltering  phrases  made  a  harsh 

353 


The  Princess 

clattering  noise  in  her  ears  and  her  head.  Then  she  began 
to  feel  as  though  the  gesticulating  doctor  was  hitting  her 
on  the  head  with  his  hat. 

"It's  not  true!"  she  articulated  softly,  in  an  imploring 
voice.  "I've  done  a  great  deal  of  good  for  other  people; 
you  know  it  yourself!" 

"Nonsense!"  cried  the  doctor.  "Can  you  possibly  go 
on  thinking  of  your  philanthropic  work  as  something 
genuine  and  useful,  and  not  a  mere  mummery?  It  was  a 
farce  from  beginning  to  end;  it  was  playing  at  loving  your 
neighbour,  the  most  open  farce  which  even  children  and 
stupid  peasant  women  saw  through!  Take  for  instance 
your — what  was  it  called? — house  for  homeless  old  women 
without  relations,  of  which  you  made  me  something  "like 
a  head  doctor,  and  of  which  you  were  the  patroness.  Mercy 
onus!  What  a  charming  institution  it  was!  A  house  was 
built  with  parquet  floors  and  a  weathercock  on  the  roof; 
a  dozen  old  women  were  collected  from  the  villages  and 
made  to  sleep  under  blankets  and  sheets  of  Dutch  linen, 
and  given  toffee  to  eat." 

The  doctor  gave  a  malignant  chuckle  into  his  hat,  and 
went  on  speaking  rapidly  and  stammering: 

"It  was  a  farce!  The  attendants  kept  the  sheets  and 
the  blankets  under  lock  and  key,  for  fear  the  old  women 
should  soil  them — 'Let  the  old  devil's  pepper-pots  sleep 
on  the  floor.'  The  old  women  did  not  dare  to  sit  down  on 
the  beds,  to  put  on  their  jackets,  to  walk  over  the  polished 
floors.  Everything  was  kept  for  show  and  hidden  away 
from  the  old  women  as  though  they  were  thieves,  and  the 
old  women  were  clothed  and  fed  on  the  sly  by  other  peo- 
ple's charity,  and  prayed  to  God  night  and  day  to  be 
released  from  their  prison  and  from  the  canting  exhorta- 
tions of  the  sleek  rascals  to  whose  care  you  committed 
them.  And  what  did  the  managers  do?  It  was  simply 
charming!  About  twice  a  week  there  would  be  thirty-five 
thousand  messengers  to  say  that  the  princess — that  is, 

354 


Anton  Chekhov 

you — were  coming  to  the  home  next  day.  That  meant  that 
next  day  I  had  to  abandon  my  patients,  dress  up  and  be 
on  parade.  Very  good;  I  arrive.  The  old  women,  in  every- 
thing clean  and  new,  are  already  drawn  up  in  a  row,  wait- 
ing. Near  them  struts  the  old  garrison  rat — the  super- 
intendent with  his  mawkish,  sneaking  smile.  The  old 
women  yawn  and  exchange  glances,  but  are  afraid  to 
complain.  We  wait.  The  junior  steward  gallops  up.  Half 
an  hour  later  the  senior  steward;  then  the  superintendent 
of  the  accounts'  office,  then  another,  and  then  another 
of  them  .  .  .  they  keep  arriving  endlessly.  They  all  have 
mysterious,  solemn  faces.  We  wait  and  wait,  shift  from 
one  leg  to  another,  look  at  the  clock — all  this  in  monu- 
mental silence  because  we  all  hate  each  other  like  poison. 
One  hour  passes,  then  a  second,  and  then  at  last  the  car- 
riage is  seen  in  the  distance,  and  .  .  .  and  .  .  ." 

The  doctor  went  off  into  a  shrill  laugh  and  brought 
out  in  a  shrill  voice: 

"You  get  out  of  the  carriage,  and  the  old  hags,  at  the 
word  of  command  from  the  old  garrison  rat,  begin  chant- 
ing: 'The  Glory  of  our  Lord  in  Zion  the  tongue  of  man 
cannot  express.  .  .  .'  A  pretty  scene,  wasn't  it?" 

The  doctor  went  off  into  a  bass  chuckle,  and  waved  his 
hand  as  though  to  signify  that  he  could  not  utter  another 
word  for  laughing.  He  laughed  heavily,  harshly,  with 
clenched  teeth,  as  ill-natured  people  laugh;  and  from  his 
voice,  from  his  face,  from  his  glittering,  rather  insolent 
eyes  it  could  be  seen  that  he  had  a  profound  contempt 
for  the  princess,  for  the  home,  and  for  the  old  women. 
There  was  nothing  amusing  or  laughable  in  all  that  he 
described  so  clumsily  and  coarsely,  but  he  laughed  with 
satisfaction,  even  with  delight. 

"And  the  school?"  he  went  on,  panting  from  laughter. 
"Do  you  remember  how  you  wanted  to  teach  peasant 
children  yourself?  You  must  have  taught  them  very  well, 
for  very  soon  the  children  all  ran  away,  so  that  they  had 

355 


The  Princess 

to  be  thrashed  and  bribed  to  come  and  be  taught.  And 
you  remember  how  you  wanted  to  feed  with  your  own 
hands  the  infants  whose  mothers  were  working  in  the  fields. 
You  went  about  the  village  crying  because  the  infants 
were  not  at  your  disposal,  as  the  mothers  would  take 
them  to  the  fields  with  them.  Then  the  village  foreman 
ordered  the  mothers  by  turns  to  leave  their  infants  behind 
for  your  entertainment.  A  strange  thing!  They  all  ran 
away  from  your  benevolence  like  mice  from  a  cat!  And 
why  was  it?  It's  very  simple.  Not  because  our  people 
are  ignorant  and  ungrateful,  as  you  always  explained  it 
to  yourself,  but  because  in  all  your  fads,  if  you'll  excuse 
the  word,  there  wasn't  a  ha'p'orth  of  love  and  kindness! 
There  was  nothing  but  the  desire  to  amuse  yourself  with 
living  puppets,  nothing  else.  ...  A  person  who  does 
not  feel  the  difference  between  a  human  being  and  a  lap- 
dog  ought  not  to  go  in  for  philanthropy.  I  assure  you, 
there's  a  great  difference  between  human  beings  and 
lap-dogs!" 

The  princess's  heart  was  beating  dreadfully;  there  was 
a  thudding  in  her  ears,  and  she  still  felt  as  though  the 
doctor  were  beating  her  on  the  head  with  his  hat.  The 
doctor  talked  quickly,  excitedly,  and  uncouthly,  stammer- 
ing and  gesticulating  unnecessarily.  All  she  grasped  was 
that  she  was  spoken  to  by  a  coarse,  ill-bred,  spiteful, 
and  ungrateful  man;  but  what  he  wanted  of  her  and  what 
he  was  talking  about,  she  could  not  understand. 

"Go  away!"  she  said  in  a  tearful  voice,  putting  up  her 
hands  to  protect  her  head  from  the  doctor's  hat;  "go 
away!" 

"And  how  you  treat  your  servants!"  the  doctor  went 
on,  indignantly.  "You  treat  them  as  the  lowest  scoundrels, 
and  don't  look  upon  them  as  human  beings.  For  example, 
allow  me  to  ask,  why  did  you  dismiss  me?  For  ten  years 
I  worked  for  your  father  and  afterwards  for  you,  honestly, 
without  vacations  or  holidays.  I  gained  the  love  of  all  for 

356 


Anton  Chekhov 

more  than  seventy  miles  round,  and  suddenly  one  fine 
day  I  am  informed  that  I  am  no  longer  wanted.  What 
for?  I've  no  idea  to  this  day.  I,  a  doctor  of  medicine,  a 
gentleman  by  birth,  a  student  of  the  Moscow  University, 
father  of  a  family — am  such  a  petty,  insignificant  insect 
that  you  can  kick  me  out  without  explaining  the  reason! 
Why  stand  on  ceremony  with  me?  I  heard  afterwards 
that  my  wife  went  without  my  knowledge  three  times  to 
intercede  with  you  for  me — you  wouldn't  receive  her.  I 
am  told  she  cried  in  your  hall.  And  I  shall  never  forgive 
her  for  it,  never!" 

The  doctor  paused  and  clenched  his  teeth,  making  an 
intense  effort  to  think  of  something  more  to  say,  very 
unpleasant  and  vindictive.  He  thought  of  something, 
and  his  cold,  frowning  face  suddenly  brightened. 

"Take  your  attitude  to  this  monastery!"  he  said  with 
avidity.  "You've  never  spared  anyone,  and  the  holier 
the  place,  the  more  chance  of  its  suffering  from  your 
loving-kindness  and  angelic  sweetness.  Why  do  you  come 
here?  What  do  you  want  with  the  monks  here,  allow  me 
to  ask  you?  What  is  Hecuba  to  you  or  you  to  Hecuba? 
It's  another  farce,  another  amusement  for  you,  another 
sacrilege  against  human  dignity,  and  nothing  more.  Why, 
you  don't  believe  in  the  monks'  God;  you've  a  God  of  your 
own  in  your  heart,  whom  you've  evolved  for  yourself  at 
spiritualist  seances.  You  look  with  condescension  upon 
the  ritual  of  the  Church;  you  don't  go  to  mass  or  vespers; 
you  sleep  till  midday.  .  .  .  Why  do  you  come  here  ?  .  .  . 
You  come  with  a  God  of  your  own  into  a  monastery  you 
have  nothing  to  do  with,  and  you  imagine  that  the  monks 
look  upon  it  as  a  very  great  honour.  To  be  sure  they  do! 
You'd  better  ask,  by  the  way,  what  your  visits  cost  the 
monastery.  You  were  graciously  pleased  to  arrive  here 
this  evening,  and  a  messenger  from  your  estate  arrived 
on  horseback  the  day  before  yesterday  to  warn  them  of 
your  coming.  They  were  the  whole  day  yesterday  getting 

357 


The  Princess 

the  rooms  ready  and  expecting  you.  This  morning  your 
advance-guard  arrived — an  insolent  maid,  who  keeps  run- 
ning across  the  courtyard,  rustling  her  skirts,  pestering 
them  with  questions,  giving  orders.  ...  I  can't  endure 
it!  The  monks  have  been  on  the  lookout  all  day,  for  if 
you  were  not  met  with  due  ceremony,  there  would  be 
trouble!  You'd  complain  to  the  bishop!  'The  monks 
don't  like  me,  your  holiness;  I  don't  know  what  I've  done 
to  displease  them.  It's  true  I'm  a  great  sinner,  but  I'm 
so  unhappy!'  Already  one  monastery  has  been  in  hot 
water  over  you.  The  Father  Superior  is  a  busy,  learned 
man;  he  hasn't  a  free  moment,  and  you  keep  sending  for 
him  to  come  to  your  rooms.  Not  a  trace  of  respect  for 
age  or  for  rank!  If  at  least  you  were  a  bountiful  giver 
to  the  monastery,  one  wouldn't  resent  it  so  much,  but  all 
this  time  the  monks  have  not  received  a  hundred  roubles 
from  you!" 

Whenever  people  worried  the  princess,  misunderstood 
her,  or  mortified  her,  and  when  she  did  not  know  what 
to  say  or  to  do,  she  usually  began  to  cry.  And  on  this 
occasion,  too,  she  ended  by  hiding  her  face  in  her  hands 
and  crying  aloud  in  a  thin  treble  like  a  child.  The  doctor 
suddenly  stopped  and  looked  at  her.  His  face  darkened 
and  grew  stern. 

"Forgive  me,  Princess,"  he  said  in  a  hollow  voice. 
"I've  given  way  to  a  malicious  feeling  and  forgotten  my- 
self. It  was  not  right." 

And  coughing  in  an  embarrassed  way,  he  walked  away 
quickly,  without  remembering  to  put  his  hat  on. 

Stars  were  already  twinkling  in  the  sky.  The  moon 
must  have  been  rising  on  the  further  side  of  the  monastery, 
for  the  sky  was  clear,  soft,  and  transparent.  Bats  were 
flitting  noiselessly  along  the  white  monastery  wall. 

The  clock  slowly  struck  three  quarters,  probably  a 
quarter  to  nine.  The  princess  got  up  and  walked  slowly 
to  the  gate.  She  felt  wounded  and  was  crying,  and  she 

358 


Anton  Chekhov 

felt  that  the  trees  and  the  stars  and  even  the  bats  were 
pitying  her,  and  that  the  clock  struck  musically  only  to 
express  its  sympathy  with  her.  She  cried  and  thought 
how  nice  it  would  be  to  go  into  a  monastery  for  the  rest 
of  her  life.  On  still  summer  evenings  she  would  walk 
alone  through  the  avenues,  insulted,  injured,  misunder- 
stood by  people,  and  only  God  and  the  starry  heavens 
would  see  the  martyr's  tears.  The  evening  service  was 
still  going  on  in  the  church.  The  princess  stopped  and 
listened  to  the  singing;  how  beautiful  the  singing  sounded 
in  the  still  darkness!  How  sweet  to  weep  and  suffer  to  the 
sound  of  that  singing! 

Going  into  her  rooms,  she  looked  at  her  tear-stained 
face  in  the  glass  and  powdered  it,  then  she  sat  down  to 
supper.  The  monks  knew  that  she  liked  pickled  sturgeon, 
little  mushrooms,  Malaga  and  plain  honey-cakes  that  left 
a  taste  of  cypress  in  the  mouth,  and  every  time  she  came 
they  gave  her  all  these  dishes.  As  she  ate  the  mushro6ms 
and  drank  the  Malaga,  the  princess  dreamed  of  how  she 
would  be  finally  ruined  and  deserted — how  all  her  stew- 
ards, bailiffs,  clerks,  and  maid-servants  for  whom  she  had 
done  so  much,  would  be  false  to  her,  and  begin  to  say 
rude  things;  how  people  all  the  world  over  would  set  upon 
her,  speak  ill  of  her,  jeer  at  her.  She  would  renounce  her 
title,  would  renounce  society  and  luxury,  and  would  go 
into  a  convent  without  one  word  of  reproach  to  anyone; 
she  would  pray  for  her  enemies — and  then  they  would  all 
understand  her  and  come  to  beg  her  forgiveness,  but  by 
that  time  it  would  be  too  late.  .  .  . 

After  supper  she  knelt  down  in  the  corner  before  the 
ikon  and  read  two  chapters  of  the  Gospel.  Then  her  maid 
made  her  bed  and  she  got  into  it.  Stretching  herself  under 
the  white  quilt,  she  heaved  a  sweet,  deep  sigh,  as  one  sighs 
after  crying,  closed  her  eyes,  and  began  to  fall  asleep. 

In  the  morning  she  waked  up  and  glanced  at  her  watch. 
It  was  half-past  nine.  On  the  carpet  near  the  bed  was  a 

359 


The  Princess 

bright,  narrow  streak  of  sunlight  from  a  ray  which  came 
in  at  the  window  and  dimly  lighted  up  the  room.  Flies 
were  buzzing  behind  the  black  curtain  at  the  window. 
"It's  early,"  thought  the  princess,  and  she  closed  her 
eyes. 

Stretching  and  lying  snug  in  her  bed,  she  recalled  her 
meeting  yesterday  with  the  doctor  and  all  the  thoughts 
with  which  she  had  gone  to  sleep  the  night  before:  she 
remembered  she  was  unhappy.  Then  she  thought  of  her 
husband  living  in  Petersburg,  her  stewards,  doctors,  neigh- 
bours, the  officials  of  her  acquaintance  ...  a  long  pro- 
cession of  familiar  masculine  faces  passed  before  her  im- 
agination. She  smiled  and  thought,  if  only  these  people 
could  see  into  her  heart  and  understand  her,  they  would 
all  be  at  her  feet. 

At  a  quarter  past  eleven  she  called  her  maid. 

"Help  me  to  dress,  Dasha,"  she  said  languidly.  "But 
go  first  and  tell  them  to  get  out  the  horses.  I  must  set  off 
for  Klavdia  Nikolaevna's." 

Going  out  to  get  into  the  carriage,  she  blinked  at  the 
glaring  daylight  and  laughed  with  pleasure:  it  was  a 
wonderfully  fine  day!  As  she  scanned  from  her  half-closed 
eyes  the  monks  who  had  gathered  round  the  steps  to  see 
her  off,  she  nodded  graciously  and  said: 

"Good-bye,  my  friends!  Till  the  day  after  to-morrow." 

It  was  an  agreeable  surprise  to  her  that  the  doctor  was 
with  the  monks  by  the  steps.  His  face  was  pale  and  severe. 

"Princess,"  he  said  with  a  guilty  smile,  taking  off  his 
hat,  "I've  been  waiting  here  a  long  time  to  see  you. 
Forgive  me,  for  God's  sake.  ...  I  was  carried  away 
yesterday  by  an  evil,  vindictive  feeling,  and  I  talked  .  .  . 
nonsense.  In  short,  I  beg  your  pardon." 

The  princess  smiled  graciously,  and  held  out  her  hand 
for  him  to  kiss.  He  kissed  it,  turning  red. 

Trying  to  look  like  a  bird,  the  princess  fluttered  into 
the  carriage  and  nodded  in  all  directions.  There  was  a 

360 


Anton  Chekhov 

gay,  warm,  serene  feeling  in  her  heart,  and  she  felt  herself 
that  her  smile  was  particularly  soft  and  friendly.  As  the 
carriage  rolled  towards  the  gates,  and  afterwards  along 
the  dusty  road  past  huts  and  gardens,  past  long  trains  of 
waggons  and  strings  of  pilgrims  on  their  way  to  the  mon- 
astery, she  still  screwed  up  her  eyes  and  smiled  softly. 
She  was  thinking  there  was  no  higher  bliss  than  to  bring 
warmth,  light,  and  joy  wherever  one  went,  to  forgive 
injuries,  to  smile  graciously  on  one's  enemies.  The  peas- 
ants she  passed  bowed  to  her,  the  carriage  rustled  softly, 
clouds  of  dust  rose  from  under  the  wheels  and  floated 
over  the  golden  rye,  and  it  seemed  to  the  princess  that 
her  body  was  swaying  not  on  carriage  cushions  but  on 
clouds,  and  that  she  herself  was  like  a  light,  transparent 
little  cloud.  .  .  . 

"How  happy  I  am!"  she  murmured,  shutting  her  eyes. 
"How  happy  I  am!" 


WINE 

by 

Sandor  Gergel 


SANDOR  GERGEL  is  a  Hungarian  novelist  and  short-story 
writer.  He  is  the  author  of  an  anti-war  novel  relating  his 
own  experience  of  two  years  of  complete  blindness. 


WINE 

A  SHORT  STORY  OF  HUNGARY 

EfTLE  Mary  is  ten  years  old.  Hair  and  complexion, 
brown;  eyes,  blue.  A  city  doctor  would  say:  under- 
nourished. Country  folk  only  say:  the  thin  thing. 
Little  Mary  has  been  head  of  the  family  now  for  two 
weeks.  From  five  o'clock  in  the  morning  to  seven  o'clock 
at  night.  At  five  o'clock  in  the  morning  father  and 
mother  are  already  on  their  way  to  the  rich  farmer's. 
For  the  past  two  weeks  they  have  been  working  there 
and  the  "home"  is  managed  byjittle  Mary. 

Sleeping  on  two  old  straw  mattresses  are  Hans,  nine, 
Martin,  seven,  and  Julie,  four.  The  two  straw  mattresses 
are  really  only  bags  of  straw-dust,  but  towards  dawn, 
when  the  old  folks  have  gotten  up  from  them,  it  is  lovely 
and  comfortable  there.  Once  in  a  while  little  Mary  has 
to  go  away  too.  She  puts  on  her  rags,  sticks  her  feet  into 
the  boots  tied  around  with  straps;  picks  up  the  lead  ewer 
and  goes.  The  ewer  is  very  heavy  and  the  place  far,  but 
by  six  o'clock  she  is  at  the  railway  station.  At  six  o'clock 
the  Pester  passenger  train  comes.  It  stops  there  for  ten 
minutes. 

Mary  is  always  on  time.  Even  in  winter  she  comes  on 
time,  if  she  is  there  at  all.  For  it  is  not  always  there  is 
something  to  bring.  Last  winter  she  went  twice  for  two 
weeks.  When  the  old  folks  went  to  work.  .  .  .  That 
means  they  had  work  twice  during  the  winter,  for  two 
weeks  at  a  time.  They  get  paid  not  in  money  or  even  in 
lard,  flour  or  meat — that  comes  only  once  in  a  long  while — 
but  in  wine.  Two  liters  of  wine  is  a  day's  wages.  Nowadays 

From  International  Literature,  March  1935.  Reprinted  by  permission  of  In- 
ternational Publishers  Co.,  Inc.,  New  York. 

365 


Wine 

that's  what  they  pay.  .  .  .  The  two  of  them  earn  four 
liters  of  wine  daily.  A  good  part  of  it  they  drink  them- 
selves, particularly  when  there  is  nothing  to  eat  in  the 
house.  But  little  Mary  takes  a  four-liter  ewer  of  wine 
every  morning  to  meet  the  Pester  passenger  train.  Her 
thin  little  voice  chirps  to  meet  the  inrushing  train: 

"Wine,  please.  .  .  .    Fresh,  fine  wine,  please.  .  .  ." 

But  she  is  not  the  only  one  that  waits  for  the  Pester 
passenger  train,  chilled  to  the  bone.  Big  men  in  boots 
and  with  moustaches  throw  themselves  upon  the  train, 
enter  the  cars,  run  up  and  down  inside  them  while  little 
Mary  has  to  rely  only  on  the  few  passengers  that  come 
out  on  the  platform  for  fresh  air.  She  shivers  with  the 
cold,  her  teeth  chatter.  Occasionally  more  than  necessary 
when,  with  her  uncanny  knowledge  of  people,  she  is 
drawn  to  someone  in  particular. 

"Uncle,  buy  some.  It  is  the  best  wine.  .  .  ," 

"Auntie,  I  wash  the  ewer  every  morning  with  soda,  it 
is  clean,  buy  some.  .  .  ." 

"Only  ten  hellers  a  glass.  .  .  ." 

Sometimes  she  sells  as  many  as  five  glasses. 

Once,  in  winter,  a  man  with  a  great  big  paunch  drank 
right  out  of  the  ewer.  He  drank  almost  half  the  ewer  and 
gave  her  a  whole  pengo.  Mostly,  however,  Mary  gets 
only  forty  or  fifty  hellers.  For  this  she  buys  bread  in  the 
village,  at  thirty  hellers  the  kilo. 

"Well,  little  one,"  the  baker  said  once,  "do  you  take 
care  of  the  family?" 

"Sure.    But  not  for  long  now." 

"Is  that  so!    Till  when  then?" 

But  to  this  Mary  did  not  answer.  She  only  thought  of 
father's  curses  and  the  angry  whispers  of  the  poor  folk: 
one  of  these  days  we'll  take  these  lords  by  the  scruff  of 
the  neck! 

Only  things  like  this  one  must  not  tell  the  baker  or 
any  of  the  others  that  have  money. 

366 


Sandor  Gergel 

And  so  she  goes  every  morning  and  buys  bread  for  the 
money  she  gets  for  wine,  smiling  confidently. 

But  the  business  gets  harder  and  harder.  The  wine 
sellers  go  along  with  the  train  now  from  station  to  station. 
They  buy  themselves  tickets,  board  the  train,  wake  the 
sleeping  ones  and  offer  them  drinks.  Hardly  anyone  buys 
wine  at  the  station.  Little  Mary  stands  between  the 
tracks  in  the  rain  like  a  big  wet  bird.  Despair  sounds 
hoarsely  in  her  "Uncle.  .  .  ." 

She  thinks  of  the  family  entrusted  to  her.  Hans,  Martin, 
and  Julie  will  go  without  bread  today  again.  And,  cough- 
ing, she  lags  behind  the  other  wine  sellers'  in  her  hour-long 
trot.  All  the  others  are  grown  up,  only  she  is  small.  But 
Mary  is  glad  of  this.  So  long  as  she  has  to  carry  the  wine 
to  the  railway  station,  it  is  good :  if  father  or  mother  were 
to  do  it,  that  would  mean  they  were  unemployed  and  could 
only  sell  the  remains  of  the  wine.  And  they  would  also 
be  coming  back  with  full  ewers,  curse,  and  stop  to  take 
long  draughts.  Just  as  the  others  do. 

Today  she  has  not  sold  a  single  glassful.  There  is  not 
a  crumb  of  bread  at  home.  Trouble  presses  on  her  brain, 
the  heavy  ewer  presses  on  her  shoulder,  the  deep  mud 
pulls  at  her  boots. 

She  collects  the  loose  bricks  lying  about,  makes  a  little 
pile  near  the  door  and  gets  upon  it.  That's  how  she  reaches 
the  window  sill  where  the  key  is  hidden.  She  unlocks  the 
door  and  then  scatters  the  bricks  again.  The  children 
are  up  already.  She  drags  them  out  of  their  rags.  The 
older  ones  tend  themselves.  The  little  one  she  has  to  wash. 

They  sit  down  to  the  table.  ^— — s. 

Mary  puts  the  ewer  down  in  thq^centerj>f  the  table. 
She  puts  a  tin  plate  and  spoon  in  ntmt  01  each  of  the 
children.  All  fold  their  hands  and  repeat  their  morning 
prayer. 

"There  is  no  bread  today,"  Mary  says  when  the  prayers 
are  over. 

367 


Wine 

She  swallows  a  laugh  as  she  had  put  one  over  again  on 
Martin.  That  little  godless  fellow  had  announced  yester- 
day: 

"If  there  is  no  bread  again  tomorrow,  I'm  not  going  to 
say  my  prayers." 

She  pours  the  wine  into  the  plates.  The  children  fall 
to  and  drink  hungrily.  Julie  doesn't  feel  like  drinking  the 
wine.  Mary  takes  her  on  her  lap  and  smiling  slyly  talks 
her  into  drinking  her  breakfast.  After  they  are  through 
they  get  up  feeling  dizzy ,  stagger  and  hiccup. 

Rain  is  pouring.  Hans  and  Martin  go  to  school.  Bare- 
foot and  hatlessT 

Mary  washes  the  dishes.  She  herself  had  not  used  either 
plate  or  spoon.  She  drank  out  of  the  ewer  in  deep,  heavy 
draughts.  Then  she  also  goes  out,  her  sleeping  little  sister 
in  her  arms.  She  feels  somewhat  dizzy,  staggers  a  little  and 
has  to  lean  against  the  door.  She  looks  about  the  yard. 

Standing  in  the  doorway  of  their  neighbor's  house  is 
another  little  Mary,  also  ten  years  old.  To  distinguish 
between  them  the  neighbors  call  her  Marilyn. 

"I  have  shipped  them  off  to  school,"  says  Mary. 

"I  too.  All  three,"  answers  Marilyn  and  sticks  her  two 
little  fists  under  her  apron,  just  as  the  grown-ups  do.  She 
is  silent  a  while,  then  she  asks: 

"Did  they  all  have  their  breakfast?" 

"All.    But  there  was  no  bread  again  today." 

"We  had  no  bread  either,"  Marilyn  nods.    "And  I  got 


no  wine." 


"I  have  no  bread,  darling,"  Mary  says,  "but  I  can 
give  you  some  wine." 

So  Marilyn  comes  over  to  Mary.  They  go  inside.  The 
ewer  of  wine  stands  on  the  table.  Marilyn  falls  upon  it 
and  drinks  in  deep,  heavy  draughts.  After  she  is  through 
she  holds  on  to  the  table. 

"I  always  get  dizzy"  she  says  in  a  murmur,  "whenever 
I  drink  wine." 

368 


Sandor  Gergel 

"I  too.  And  she  always  goes  to  sleep  from  it,"  Mary 
points  to  the  child  in  her  arms. 

So  they  stand  there,  feeling  dizzy,  their  eyes  sad  with 
family  troubles.  They  drowse  off.  Their  heads  hang  down 
heavily.  They  lean  over  against  the  table.  Then  they 
slide  down  to  the  floor.  The  child  in  Mary's  arms  rolls 
out,  almost  stifled,  on  the  floor  beside  them.  Mary  and 
Marilyn  now  let  themselves  go  altogether  and  the  little 
heads,  so  heavy  with  family  cares,  sink  in  sleep  on  the 
straw  mattress. 


369 


THE  PROTECTOR 

by 

Marcelo  Salinas 


MARCELO   SALINAS  is  a  young  Cuban  writer,  some  of 
whose  stories  Langston  Hughes  has  translated  into  English. 


THE  PROTECTOR 

THE  man,  bending  over  the  long  rows,  worked  rap- 
idly as  though  in  a  great  hurry  to  finish.  His  little 
boy,  scarcely  ten  years  old,  went  behind  him  picking 
up  the  sweet  potatoes  and  putting  them  in  piles.  The 
Cuban  earth  was  hard  and  very  dry.  In  spite  of  the  fact 
that  the  night  was  cool,  the  man  was  sweating. 

"Enough  yet?" 

The  child  measured  with  a  glance  the  piles  and  an- 
swered, "'Bout  half  a  sack." 

"Let's  fill  up  then  and  get  goin'.  The  moon'll  be 
coming  out." 

While  the  boy  held  the  sack  open,  the  man  threw  in 
the  sweet  potatoes.  From  time  to  time,  fearful  of  being 
taken  by  surprise,  he  looked  around  on  both  sides,  across 
the  big  field,  and  down  toward  the  road  some  two  hundred 
meters  away. 

The  sack  was  over  half  full.  Then  the  man  tied  its 
mouth  with  a  bit  of  palm  fiber,  put  his  knife  in  his  belt, 
tightened  his  waist  and  started  to  raise  the  bag. 

The  little  boy,  frantic  with  hunger,  gnawed  on  a  root 
he  had  picked  up. 

"Throw  that  away.  When  we  get  to  the  village,  we'll 
have  bread." 

The  boy  obeyed,  sure  that  the  promise  would  be  kept. 
They  would  sell  the  sweet  potatoes  at  Justo's  store  and 
then  they  would  not  only  have  bread  but  a  piece  of  candy 
as  well.  That's  what  happened  three  days  ago  when  they 
went  to  steal  bananas.  That's  what  had  been  happening 
ever  since  his  father  had  been  out  of  work,  almost  a  month 

Translated  by  Langston  Hughes,  and  reprinted  by  his  permission.  From 
New  Masses,  February  25, 1936. 

373 


The  Protector 

now.  The  rural  guards  hadn't  caught  them  yet.  And 
even  if  they  should  catch  them  he  would  not  be  afraid  of 
anything  beside  his  father,  not  even  of  the  darkness  which 
was  the  only  thing  that  really  frightened  him  now. 

The  man,  having  dragged  his  sack  to  a  stone  wall,  put 
it  up,  turned  and  bent  his  back  beneath  the  load.  When  he 
stood  up  tall  with  his  burden,  the  heart  of  the  child  swelled 
with  pride  and  admiration.  How  strong  his  father  was! 
And  how  brave! 

They  took  a  short  cut  that  the  cattle  followed  and  came 
out  through  a  hole  in  the  wall  into  the  road  which  ran 
between  two  steep  slopes  like  a  dry  river.  They  walked 
very  fast,  the  father  panting  beneath  his  load,  the  little 
boy  beside  him,  jumping  over  the  bumps  in  the  road. 

A  rooster  crowed,  then  another  and  several  more  an- 
swered them.  Soon  the  whole  countryside  vibrated  with 
their  awareness. 

"Two  o'clock!  Soon  the  moon  will  be  out,"  thought  the 
thief.  And  he  made  up  his  mind  not  to  rest  until  he  was 
near  the  village.  There  he  felt  that  he  would  be  out  of 
danger. 

"Hurry  up,"  he  said  to  the  child. 

They  came  to  a  place  where,  in  a  violent  curve,  the 
road  seemed  to  end.  Above,  like  a  mile-stone  near  the 
wall,  a  big  tree  spread  its  shadow. 

Suddenly,  a  man  jumped  out  and  planted  himself  di- 
rectly in  front  of  them. 

"Halt!"  he  said  sternly. 

The  father  and  the  son  stopped.  The  man  with  the 
sack  recognized  him  at  once  as  a  private  watchman  belong- 
ing to  the  plantation  he  had  just  robbed. 

He  stood  there  with  his  gun  raised.  "Ah,  you  robber! 
Now,  I've  got  you!" 

The  prisoner  threw  his  load  down  as  if  to  run,  but  the 
guard  said,  "Don't  move  or  I'll  kill  you!"  And  he  cocked 
his  gun. 

374 


Marcelo  Salinas 

They  stood  a  moment  in  silence,  face  to  face,  the  threat- 
ening watchman  and  the  unhappy  prisoner  overcome  by 
the  shame  of  having  been  caught.  The  child  clung  to  the 
legs  of  his  father,  but  he  was  more  filled  with  curiosity 
than  with  fear.  He  did  not  even  suspect  that  they  had 
been  getting  their  bread  and  their  candy  in  the  wrong 
way. 

"You  dirty  thief!   I've  been  on  your  trail  a  long  time!" 

From  these  harsh  insults  the  unfortunate  Creole  felt  a 
wave  of  blood  sting  his  face.  Half-blind,  he  began  to  look 
for  the  knife  at  his  belt. 

" Keep  still!  .  .  .   Raise  your  hands!" 

The  fear  of  danger  overcame  him  and  giving  way  to 
discretion,  he  raised  his  arms.  The  guard  approached 
and,  as  he  took  the  knife  away  from  him,  he  ordered, 
"Get  ahead,  and  take  care  not  to  try  to  run  away." 

Filled  with  sorrow  and  despair,  the  hopeless  man  began 
to  walk  slowly,  with  the  now  frightened  child  beside  him. 
Behind  them,  with  military  stride,  they  could  hear  the 
big  boots  of  the  guard  on  the  road. 

For  seven  or  eight  minutes  they  walked  in  horrible  si- 
lence. In  the  distance  the  little  yellow  lights  of  the  village 
could  be  seen. 

The  prisoner  stopped  suddenly  as  if  rooted  to  the 
earth.  "Watchman,"  he  said,  without  turning  his  head, 
"  I  will  not  go  into  that  village  as  a  prisoner.  If  you  want 
to,  you  can  kill  me,  but  I  will  not  go  in  like  this." 

The  guard  had  stopped,  too,  very  near  the  prisoner. 
For  a  moment  he  was  troubled  by  the  latter' s  attitude. 
Then,  thinking  it  was  a  trick  to  mislead  him,  he  reasserted 
himself.  "What  do  you  mean,  you  won't  go  in?  I  bet 
you  will!" 

"No,  I  won't." 

There  was  a  terrific  pause.  One  of  those  fleeting  mo- 
ments that  concentrate  a  whole  tragedy.  The  prisoner 
turned  around  and  stood  looking  resolutely  at  his  captor. 

375 


The  Protector 

The  little  boy,  with  his  eyes  very  wide  open,  did  not  fully 
understand  what  was  happening. 

The  guard  cursed  and  raised  his  gun,  but  he  dropped 
it  without  firing.  "Get  away!  Get  away  quick!"  He 
yelled.  "I  don't  want  to  commit  murder!" 

And  as  if  he  himself  was  escaping  from  the  danger  of 
his  own  wrath,  the  watchman  gave  a  half  turn  and  started 
off,  almost  running,  in  the  direction  from  which  they 
had  come.  Soon  the  sound  of  his  footsteps  was  lost  in  the 
night. 

Then  the  unfortunate  stealer  of  sweet  potatoes  sat 
down  on  the  grass  at  the  edge  of  the  road,  sighed  deeply 
and  hid  his  face  in  his  hands.  Close  behind  him,  seeking 
cover  from  the  dampness  of  the  night,  the  child  snuggled. 

They  remained  like  that  a  long  time:  the  man  very 
still  with  his  hands  to  his  temples  as  if  he  were  afraid 
they  were  going  to  burst,  the  child  close  to  him  seeking 
protection  from  the  cold. 

"Papa,  let's  go." 

The  man  seemed  to  awaken. 

"Yes,  let's  go." 

But  he  made  no  move  to  get  up,  so  the  child  took  his 
chin  gently  in  his  hands. 

"Papa!" 

As  the  father  turned  his  head,  a  ray  of  moonlight 
through  the  branches  of  the  trees  lit  up  his  face,  and  you 
saw  that  his  eyes  were  bathed  in  tears. 

"Little  boy!  My  little  boy!"  He  embraced  him  ten- 
derly, with  all  his  soul,  and  a  deep  sob  trembled  in  his 
throat. 

The  child  threw  his  arms  around  the  man's  neck.  He 
put  his  soft  little  cheek  against  the  rough  cheek  of  his 
father  and  quietly,  very  gently,  he  whispered  in  his  ear, 
"Don't  cry,  papa!  When  I  get  big,  I'll  protect  you.  You'll 
see  how  nobody'll  bother  you  then." 

376 


AWAKENING 

by 
Isaac  Babel 


ISAAC  BABEL,  born  1894  in  Odessa,  of  Jewish  middle-class 
parentage,  dates  the  beginning  of  his  literary  career  to  en- 
couragement from  Maxim  Gorky,  whom  he  met  in  1916. 
He  served  in  the  army  on  the  Rumanian  front;  later  in  the 
army  in  the  north  against  Yudenich;  then  as  a  reporter  on 
Petrograd  and  Tifiis  papers,  as  a  worker  in  a  printing  shop, 
etc.  His  best-known  short  stories,  which  began  to  appear  in 
1924.,  deal  with  the  civil  war  in  Russia,  and  particularly 
with  Budenny's  Red  Cavalry. 


AWAKENING 

A"L  the  people  of  our  class:  brokers,  shopkeepers, 
and  employees  in  banks  and  shipping-offices,  had 
their  children  taught  music.  Our  parents,  who 
saw  no  bright  prospects  before  them,  devised  a  lottery, 
which  they  built  up  on  the  bones  of  little  folk.  This  mad- 
ness attacked  Odessa  much  more  violently  than  other 
towns.  And  sure  enough,  for  years  our  town  supplied 
the  concert  platforms  of  the  world  with  infant  prodigies. 
It  was  from  Odessa  that  Mischa  Elman,  Zimbalist  and 
Gabrilovich  came,  and  Yasha  Heifetz  began  with  us,  too. 

As  soon  as  a  boy  had  reached  four  or  five  years  of  age, 
his  mother  took  the  puny  little  creature  to  Mr.  Zagurski. 
Zagurski  kept  a  factory  of  infant  prodigies,  a  factory  of 
Jewish  dwarfs  in  lace  collars  and  patent-leather  slippers. 
He  discovered  them  in  the  slums  of  the  Moldavanka  quar- 
ter, in  the  evil  smelling  yards  of  the  Old  Bazaar.  Zagurski 
set  them  on  the  right  track  and  then  delivered  them  over 
to  Professor  Auer  in  St.  Petersburg.  A  mighty  harmony 
dwelt  in  the  souls  of  these  miserable  mites  with  blue, 
swollen  heads.  They  became  famous  musicians.  One  day 
my  father  decided  to  join  in  the  race.  Although  somewhat 
over  the  infant  prodigy  age — I  was  almost  fourteen — 
I  was  so  small  and  puny  that  I  could  easily  pass  as  an 
eight  year  old  child.  All  our  hopes  hung  on  this. 

I  was  taken  to  Zagurski.  Out  of  respect  for  my  grand- 
father he  agreed  to  teach  me  for  a  ruble  a  lesson,  an  ex- 
tremely low  rate.  My  grandfather,  Levy  Idzhok,  was  at 
once  the  laughing  stock  and  the  pride  of  the  town.  He 
walked  about  in  a  top  hat,  with  his  feet  bound  in  linen 
strips  instead  of  socks,  and  dispersed  people's  doubts  upon 

From  International  Literature,  No.  3,  March  1935.  Reprinted  by  permission  of 
International  Publishers  Co.,  Inc.,  New  York. 

379 


Awakening 

the  most  obscure  points.  He  was  applied  to  for  informa- 
tion on  Gobelin  tapestries,  on  the  reasons  for  the  Jacobins' 
betrayal  of  Robespierre,  on  the  production  of  artificial 
silk,  and  the  exact  method  of  making  a  Caesarean  section. 
My  grandfather  could  answer  all  these  questions.  Out  of 
respect  for  his  learning  and  madness  Zagurski  charged  us 
no  more  than  a  ruble  a  lesson.  And  the  trouble  he  took 
with  me  he  took  solely  from  fear  of  my  grandfather,  for 
it  was  clearly  a  waste  of  time.  Sounds  like  iron  filings  crept 
out  of  my  violin,  sounds  that  cut  me  to  the  very  heart, 
but  my  father  would  not  give  up.  At  home  the  talk  was 
all  of  Mischa  Elman,  who  had  been  exempted  from  mili- 
tary service  by  the  Tsar  himself.  Zimbalist,  according 
to  my  father's  information,  had  been  presented  to  the 
King  of  England,  and  had  played  in  Buckingham  Palace; 
Gabrilovich's  parents  had  bought  two  houses  in  St.  Peters- 
burg. These  infant  prodigies  had  brought  their  parents 
wealth.  My  father  would  have  borne  poverty  patiently, 
but  glory  was  a  necessity  to  him. 

"It  could  not  be,"  whispered  the  people  who  dined  at 
his  expense,  "it  could  not  be  that  the  erandson  of  such  a 
man.  .  .  ." 

I  had  something  quite  different  in  mind.  While  I  played 
my  exercises  I  placed  some  work  of  Turgenyev's  or  Dumas' 
on  the  music-stand  before  me  and  devoured  page  after  page 
as  I  sawed  away  at  the  violin.  In  the  day  time  I  spun 
yarns  to  the  neighbors'  children,  and  spent  the  night  com- 
mitting them  to  paper. 

Story-telling  was  an  hereditary  passion  in  our  family. 
My  grandfather,  who  became  a  little  crazy  in  his  old  age, 
had  been  writing  a  story  entitled  The  Headless  John  all 
his  life.  I  took  after  him. 

Three  times  a  week  I  had  to  trail  off,  weighed  down 
with  my  violin  and  music,  to  Zagurski's.  Against  the  wall, 
awaiting  their  turn,  sat  a  row  of  Jewesses  in  a  state  of 
almost  hysterical  animation.  The  violins  they  clutched 

380 


Isaac  Babel 

on  their  weak  knees  were  much  larger  than  those  who  were 
to  perform  on  them  in  Buckingham  Palace. 

The  door  of  the  holy  of  holies  would  open  and  freckled 
children  with  large  heads  on  thin  necks  like  stalks  of  flow- 
ers and  an  epileptic  flush  on  their  cheeks  would  emerge. 
The  door  closed  again  after  swallowing  up  the  next  dwarf. 
On  the  other  side  of  the  wall  the  teacher  with  the  carrotty 
curls,  the  bow-tie,  and  the  thin  legs,  chanted  and  con- 
ducted till  he  was  ready  to  burst.  The  manager  of  this 
monstrous  lottery,  he  populated  the  Moldavanka  quarter 
and  the  black  alleys  of  the  Old  Bazaar  with  the  spectres 
of  pizzicato  and  cantilena.  Later  this  polish  was  to  be 
heightened  to  an  infernal  brilliance  by  old  Professor 
Auer. 

I  had  nothing  in  common  with  this  sect.  Though  I 
was  a  dwarf  like  them,  I  hearkened  to  a  different  inspira- 
tion in  the  voice  of  my  ancestors. 

The  first  stage  was  hard  for  me.  One  day  I  left  the 
house  loaded  with  my  violin  in  its  case,  my  music,  and 
twelve  rubles,  the  fee  for  the  month's  lessons.  I  went 
along  Nejin  Street,  and  should  have  turned  into  Dvorian- 
skaya  Street  to  get  to  Zagurski's,  but  instead,  I  went  up 
Tirasspol  Street,  and  found  myself  in  the  port.  The  hours 
appointed  for  my  lesson  flew  by  at  the  docks.  That  was 
the  beginning  of  my  liberation.  Zagurski's  waiting-room 
never  saw  me  again.  More  important  business  occupied 
my  mind  now.  Together  with  a  playmate  of  mine  named 
Nemanov,  I  visited  an  old  sailor,  Mr.  Trottyburn,  on 
the  steamship  Kensington.  Nemanov  was  a  year  younger 
than  I,  but  from  the  age  of  eight  he  had  been  engaged  in 
the  most  complicated  trading  operations  in  the  world.  He 
had  a  genius  for  trade  and  fulfilled  all  that  he  promised. 
Now  he  is  a  New  York  millionaire,  a  director  of  the  Gen- 
eral Motors  Company,  a  firm  no  less  powerful  than  Ford's. 
Nemanov  took  me  about  with  him  everywhere  simply 
because  I  obeyed  him  implicitly.  He  bought  the  tobacco 


Awakening 

pipes  smuggled  in  by  Mr.  Trottyburn.  These  pipes  were 
made  by  the  old  sailor's  brother  in  Lincoln. 

"Gentlemen,"  said  Mr.  Trottyburn  to  us,  "mark  my 
words,  children  should  be  made  by  hand.  ...  To  smoke 
a  factory-made  pipe  is  like  sticking  a  syringe  in  your 
mouth.  .  .  .  Have  you  ever  heard  of  Benvenuto  Cellini? 
There  was  a  real  craftsman.  My  brother  in  Lincoln  could 
tell  you  all  about  him.  My  brother  doesn't  believe  in 
poking  his  nose  into  anyone's  business.  But  he's  a  rooted 
conviction  that  children  and  pipes  ought  to  be  made  by 
one's  own  hands  and  not  by  strangers.  We  can't  but  agree 
with  him,  gentlemen  .  .  ." 

Nemanov  used  to  resell  Trottyburn's  pipes  to  bank- 
directors,  foreign  consuls  and  wealthy  Greeks.  He  made 
a  profit  of  a  hundred  per  cent  on  them. 

The  pipes  of  the  Lincoln  craftsman  breathed  poetry. 
There  was  a  thought  in  each  of  them,  a  drop  of  eternity. 
A  yellow  eye  shone  in  every  mouthpiece,  every  case  was 
lined  with  satin.  I  tried  to  imagine  how  Matthew  Trotty- 
burn, the  last  pipe-craftsman,  the  man  who  had  withstood 
the  march  of  things,  lived  away  over  in  Old  England. 

"We  cannot  but  agree  with  him,  gentlemen,  that  chil- 
dren should  be  made  by  hand.  .  .  ." 

The  heavy  breakers  at  the  jetty  divided  me  more  and 
more  from  a  home  that  smelt  of  onions  and  of  Jewish  fate. 
From  the  docks  I  migrated  to  the  breakwater.  There 
was  a  little  sandy  patch  inhabited  by  the  boys  from 
Primorskaya  Street.  There  they  could  play  from  morning 
till  night  without  putting  on  their  trousers;  they  dived 
under  the  rafts,  stole  coconuts  for  their  dinner,  and  waited 
till  the  string  of  barges  laden  with  water-melons  would 
arrive  from  Kherson  and  Kamenka  and  the  melons  could 
be  split  on  the  capstans. 

To  be  able  to  swim  became  the  dream  of  my  life.  I 
shrank  from  admitting  to  these  bronzed  lads  that  although 
I  had  been  born  in  Odessa,  I  had  never  set  eyes  on  the  sea 

382 


Isaac  Babel 

until  I  was  ten  and  at  the  age  of  fourteen  was  unable  to 
swim. 

How  late  I  learnt  the  most  essential  things!  In  my  early 
years  I  sat  nailed  to  the  Talmud,  living  the  life  of  a  sage, 
and  I  was  almost  grown-up  when  I  began  to  climb  trees. 

Swimming  proved  beyond  my  powers.  The  phobia  of 
my  ancestors,  Spanish  rabbis  and  Frankfurt  money- 
changers, drew  me  inexorably  down  to  the  bottom  of 
the  sea.  The  water  would  not  support  me.  Soused  with 
salt  water,  I  returned  to  the  shore,  to  my  violin  and  music. 
I  was  attached  to  these  witnesses  of  my  crimes  and  dragged 
them  everywhere  with  me.  The  struggle  of  the  rabbis 
and  the  sea  continued  until  the  sea-god  of  those  parts, 
one  Ephim  Nikitich  Smolich,  a  proof-reader  on  the  Odessa 
News,  took  pity  on  me.  In  that  athletic  bosom  dwelt  a 
great  compassion  for  the  small  Jewish  boy.  He  was  the 
leader  of  a  mob  of  rickety  weaklings.  Nikitich  had  gath- 
ered them  from  the  bug-ridden  tenements  in  the  Molda- 
vanka  quarter,  had  led  them  to  the  sea,  rolled  them  in 
the  sand,  drilled  them,  dived  with  them,  taught  them  to 
sing  songs,  and,  roasting  alongside  them  in  the  direct  rays 
of  the  sun,  told  them  stories  of  fishermen  and  animals. 
To  grown-ups  Nikitich  explained  that  he  was  a  lover  of 
philosophy  and  nature.  Nikitich's  tales  made  the  Jewish 
children  cry  with  laughter;  they  squealed  and  cuddled 
up  to  him  like  puppies.  The  sun  bespattered  them  with 
freckles  that  melted  into  one  another,  freckles  the  color 
of  a  lizard. 

The  old  man  silently  watched  my  single-handed  fight 
with  the  breakers  out  of  the  corner  of  his  eye.  Seeing 
that  there  was  no  hope  of  my  ever  learning  to  swim,  he 
included  me  in  the  circle  of  those  to  whom  he  had  opened 
his  heart.  His  whole  heart  was  laid  open  to  us  and  it 
was  a  merry  heart,  that  knew  neither  pride  nor  greed  nor 
worry.  With  copper-colored  shoulders,  the  head  of  an 
aging  gladiator,  the  bronzed  legs — a  little  bowed,  he  lay 

383 


Awakening 

in  our  midst  behind  the  breakwater — the  sovereign  of 
those  melon-strewn,  kerosene-tainted  waters.  I  came  to 
love  this  man  as  only  a  boy  constantly  suffering  from 
hysteria  and  headaches  can  love  an  athlete.  I  would  not 
leave  him  alone;  I  was  always  trying  to  do  something 
for  him.  "Don't  fuss  about  so  much,"  he  said  to  me. 
"Strengthen  your  nerves  first.  Then  swimming  will  come 
naturally  to  you.  .  .  .  What  do  you  mean  by  saying  the 
watef  won't  hold  you  up.  .  .  .  Why  shouldn't  it  hold 
you  up?" 

When  he  saw  how  hard  I  tried,  Nikitich  singled  me  out 
of  all  his  pupils  and  asked  me  to  come  and  see  him  in  his 
clean,  spacious  attic  with  its  straw  matting.  There  he 
showed  me  his  dogs,  hedgehog,  tortoise  and  pigeons.  By 
way  of  exchange  for  all  these  riches  I  brought  him  the 
tragedy  I  had  written  the  day  before. 

"I  knew  it.  I  knew  you  wrote,"  said  Nikitich.  "You've 
got  that  sort  of  a  glance.  You  never  look  anywhere.  ..." 

He  read  my  manuscript,  gave  a  twitch  of  his  shoulders, 
passed  his  hand  over  his  stiff  grey  curls,  and  walked  the 
length  of  the  attic. 

"One  must  come  to  the  conclusion,"  he  said  very  softly, 
pausing  after  every  word,  "that  you  have  the  divine 
spark  in  you.  .  .  ." 

We  went  out  into  the  street.  The  man  stood  still, 
thumped  his  stick  on  the  pavement  and  fixed  his  eyes  on 
me. 

"What  is  it  you  lack?  .  .  .  Youth  is  no  hindrance,  it'll 
pass  with  the  years.  .  .  .  It's  the  feeling  for  nature  that 
you  haven't  got." 

He  pointed  with  his  stick  to  a  low  tree  with  a  reddish 
trunk. 

"What  tree  is  that?" 

I  did  not  know. 

"What  grows  on  this  bush?" 

I  did  not  know  that  either.    We  were  passing  through 

384 


Isaac  Babel 

the  square  in  Alexander  Avenue.  The  old  man  pointed 
out  all  the  trees  with  his  stick,  caught  me  by  the  shoulder 
whenever  a  bird  flew  by,  and  made  me  listen  to  the  differ- 
ent bird-notes. 

"What  bird  is  singing  now?" 

I  could  give  no  reply.  The  names  of  trees  and  birds, 
the  division  of  them  into  species,  where  they  were  flying, 
where  the  sun  rises,  when  the  dew  falls  the  heaviest,  all 
these  things  were  hidden  from  me. 

"And  yet  you  dare  to  write?  ...  A  man  who  doesn't 
live  in  nature  like  a  stone  or  an  animal  lives  in  it,  will 
never  write  two  lines  worth  anything.  .  .  .  Your  land- 
scapes are  like  descriptions  of  stage  scenery.  Devil  take 
me,  but  what  were  your  parents  thinking  about  for 
fourteen  years?" 

What  were  they  thinking  about?  .  .  .  About  unpaid 
I.  O.  U.'s  and  the  mansions  bought  by  Mischa  Elman.  .  .  . 
I  did  not  tell  Nikitich  this.  I  held  my  tongue. 

At  dinner-time,  at  home,  I  would  not  touch  the  food. 
It  would  not  go  down  my  throat. 

"The  feeling  for  nature,"  I  thought.  "My  God,  why 
did  it  never  enter  my  head  before?  .  .  ,  Where  can  I 
find  someone  to  interpret  the  different  bird-notes  for  me 
and  the  names  of  trees?  Let  me  see,  what  do  I  know 
about  them?  I  might  possibly  recognize  a  lilac-bush  and 
then  only  when  it's  in  blossom.  Lilac  and  acacia.  Deribas- 
sovskaya  and  Greek  Streets  are  lined  with  acacias,  .  .  ." 

At  dinner-time  father  told  us  a  new  story  about  Yascha 
Heifetz.  He  had  met  Mendelsohn,  Yascha's  uncle.  The 
boy,  it  seemed,  was  being  paid  eight  hundred  rubles  for 
every  appearance.  How  much  does  that  work  out  at 
fifteen  concerts  a  month? 

I  worked  it  out.  It  came  to  twelve  thousand  rubles  a 
month.  As  I  multiplied  and  carried  four  in  my  head,  my 
glance  wandered  to  the  window.  Across  the  cement  yard 
my  music  teacher,  Mr.  Zagurski,  was  marching,  leaning 

385 


Awakening 

on  his  stick.  He  came  on  with  the  breeze  gently  swelling 
his  Inverness  cape,  his  auburn  ringlets  escaping  from  under 
th'e  brim  of  his  soft  hat.  He  was  none  too  soon.  Over 
three  months  had  gone  by  since  my  violin  first  rested  on 
the  sand  behind  the  breakwater.  .  .  . 

Zagurski  was  approaching  the  front  door.  I  rushed  for 
the  back  door,  but  it  had  been  boarded  up  for  fear  of 
thieves  only  the  day  before.  Then  I  locked  myself  in  the 
lavatory.  In  half-an-hour's  time  the  whole  family  had 
assembled  outside  my  doon  The  women  were  crying. 
Aunt  Bobka  rubbed  her  greasy  shoulders  against  the  door 
wailing  and  sobbing.  My  father  was  silent.  Then  he  spoke, 
more  quietly  and  distinctly  than  I  had  ever  heard  him 
speak  before: 

"I'm  an  officer,  am  I?"  said  my  father.  "I  have  an 
estate.  I  hunt.  The  peasants  pay  me  rent,  don't  they? 
I  have  sent  my  son  to  a  military  school.  I  do  not  need  to 
worry  about  my  son  any  more." 

He  ceased  speaking.  The  women  snuffled.  Then  the 
door  of  the  lavatory  was  shaken  by  a  terrific  blow.  My 
father  threw  himself  upon  it  bodily.  He  ran  back  a  few 
paces  and  rushed  at  it  again. 

"I'm  an  officer!"  he  shrieked.  "I  hunt,  do  I?  I'll  kill 
him.  .  .  .  It's  the  end.  .  .  ." 

The  latch  sprang  off  the  door,  but  there  still  remained 
the  bolt,  which  hung  by  one  nail.  The  women  rolled  on 
the  floor,  trying  to  catch  my  father  by  the  legs;  he  tore 
himself  free;  he  was  in  a  frenzy.  An  old  woman  came 
tottering  out  at  last  to  the  noisy  scene.  It  was  my  father's 
mother. 

"My  child,"  she  said  to  him  in  Yiddish,  "our  sorrow  is 
great.  It  knows  no  bounds.  There  has  been  all  but  blood- 
shed in  our  house.  I  do  not  want  to  see  blood  in  my 
house.  .  .  ." 

My  father  groaned.  I  heard  his  footsteps  receding. 
The  bolt  was  still  hanging  by  the  last  nail. 


Isaac  Babel 

I  sat  in  my  fortress  till  night-fall.  When  everyone  had 
gone  to  bed,  Aunt  Bobka  led  me  away  to  my  grand- 
mother's. We  had  a  long  way  to  go.  The  moonlight  lay 
numb  on  unknown  bushes,  on  nameless  trees.  .  .  .  An 
invisible  bird  gave  a  whistle  and  faded  into  silence,  per- 
haps into  slumber.  .  .  .  What  bird  was  it?  What  was  it 
called?  Did  the  dew  fall  of  an  evening?  .  .  .  Where  did 
the  constellation  of  the  Great  Bear  lie?  Where  did  the 
sun  rise? 

We  went  along  Post  Office  Street.  Aunt  Bobka  held 
me  firmly  by  the  hand  so  that  I  could  not  run  away.  She 
was  quite  right.  I  was  thinking  of  escape. 


387 


CANDY-MAN  BEECHUM 

by 
Erskine  Caldwell 


ERSKINE  CALDWELL  (1903-  ),  born  in  Georgia,  the  son 
of  a  Presbyterian  pastor,  is  best  known  for  his  novel  Tobacco 
Road  and  for  the  play  based  upon  it.  A  somewhat  irregular 
education,  made  necessary  by  the  migratory  life  of  his  family, 
included  three  years  at  the  University  of  Virginia  and  the 
University  of  Pennsylvania.  Then  he  took  up  newspaper 
work.  He  resides  in  Maine,  when  not  in  California,  Georgia, 
Virginia,  or  Florida.  He  writes  chiefly  of  the  poor  whites  in 
the  Southern  mountains,  especially  in  Georgia.  His  stories 
have  appeared  in  many  magazines — among  them  The  Amer- 
ican Mercury,  Esquire,  New  Masses,  Scribner's  Maga- 
zine, Story,  Vanity  Fair;  efforts  to  suppress  his  second 
novel,  God's  Little  Acre  (ipjj),  made  him  better  known, 
but  the  quality  of  his  work  needed  no  such  assistance. 


CANDY-MAN  BEECHUM 

OWLS  in  the  trees  began  to  take  on  life.  Those 
whooing  birds  were  glad  to  see  the  setting  sun. 
The  black  boy  in  the  mule  yard  scratched  his 
head  and  watched  the  sun  go  down.  If  he  didn't  have  all 
those  mules  to  feed,  and  if  he  had  had  a  two-bit  piece 
in  his  pocket,  he'd  have  liked  to  tag  along  with  Candy- 
Man.  It  was  Saturday  night,  and  there'd  be  a  barrelful 
of  catfish  frying  in  town  that  evening.  He  wished  he  had 
some  of  that  good-smelling  cat. 

"Before  the  time  aint  long,"  Little  Bo  said,  "I'm 
going  to  get  me  a  gal." 

"Just  be  sure  she  aint  Candy-Man's,  boy,  and  I'll 
give  you  a  helping  hand." 

He  flung  the  other  leg  over  the  split-rail  fence  and 
struck  out  for  the  high  land.  Ten  miles  from  the  swamps 
to  the  top  of  the  ridge,  and  his  trip  would  be  done.  The 
bushes  whipped  around  his  legs,  where  his  legs  had  been. 
He  couldn't  be  waiting  for  the  back-strike  of  no  swamp- 
country  bushes.  Up  the  log  road,  and  across  the  bottom 
land,  taking  three  corn  rows  at  a  stride,  Candy-Man 
Beechum  was  on  his  way. 

There  were  some  colored  boys  taking  their  time  in 
the  big  road.  He  was  up  on  them  before  they  had  time 
to  turn  their  heads  around. 

"Make  way  for  these  flapping  feet,  boys,"  he  shouted. 
"Here  I  come!" 

"Where  you  going,  Candy-Man?" 

They  had  to  do  a  lot  of  running  to  keep  up  with  him. 

From  Kneel  to  the  Rising  Sun,  by  Erskine  Caldwell.  Copyright  1935.  Pub- 
lished by  The  Viking  Press,  Inc.,  and  reprinted  by  permission  of  The  Viking 
Press,  Inc. 

391 


Candy-Man  Beechum 

They  had  to  hustle  to  match  those  legs  four  feet  long.  He 
made  their  breath  come  short. 

"Somebody  asked  me  where  I'm  going,"  Candy-Man 
said.    "I  got  a  yellow  gal,  and  I'm  on  my  way  to  pay  her 


some  attention." 


"You'd  better  toot  your  horn,  Candy-Man,  before 
you  open  her  door.  The  yellow  gals  don't  like  to  be  taken 
by  surprise." 

"Boy,  you're  tooting  the  truth,  except  that  you  don't 
know  the  why-for  of  what  you're  saying.  Candy-Man's 
gal  always  waits  for  him  right  at  the  door." 

"Saturday-night  bucks  sure  have  to  hustle  along.  They 
have  to  strike  pay  before  the  Monday-morning  whistle 
starts  whipping  their  ears." 

The  boys  fell  behind,  stopping  to  blow  and  wheeze. 
There  was  no  keeping  up,  on  a  Saturday  night,  with  the 
seven-foot  mule  skinner  on  his  way. 

The  big  road  was  too  crooked  and  curvy  for  Candy- 
Man.  He  struck  out  across  the  fields,  headed  like  a  plumb- 
line  for  a  dishful  of  frying  catfish.  The  lights  of  the  town 
came  up  to  meet  him  in  the  face  like  a  swarm  of  lightning- 
bugs.  Eight  miles  to  town,  and  two  more  to  go,  and  he'd 
be  rapping  on  that  yellow  gal's  door. 

Back  in  the  big  road,  when  the  big  road  straightened 
out,  Candy-Man  swung  into  town.  The  old  folks  rid- 
ing, and  the  young  ones  walking,  they  all  made  way  for 
those  flapping  feet.  The  mules  to  the  buggies  and  the 
sports  in  the  middle  of  the  road  all  got  aside  to  let  him 
through. 

"What's  your  big  hurry,  Candy-Man?" 

"Take  care  my  dust  don't  choke  you  blind,  niggers. 
I'm  on  my  way." 

"Where  to,  Candy-Man?" 

"I  got  a  gal  what's  waiting  on  her  toes.  She  don't  like 
for  to  be  kept  waiting." 

"Better  slow  down  and  cool  those  heels,  Candy-Man, 

392 


Erskine  Caldwell 

because  you're  coming  to  the  white-folks'  town.  They 
don't  like  niggers  stepping  on  their  toes." 

"When  the  sun  goes  down,  I'm  on  my  own.  I  can't 
be  stopping  to  see  what  color  people  be." 

The  old  folks  clucked,  and  the  mules  began  to  trot. 
They  didn't  like  the  way  that  big  coon  talked. 

"How  about  taking  me  along,  Candy-Man?"  the 
young  bucks  begged.  "I'd  like  to  grab  me  a  chicken  off  a 
henhouse  roost." 

"Where  I'm  going  I'm  the  cock  of  the  walk.  I  gouge 
my  spurs  in  all  strange  feathers.  Stay  away,  black  boy, 
stay  away." 

Down  the  street  he  went,  sticking  to  the  middle  of  the 
road.  The  sidewalks  couldn't  hold  him  when  he  was  in  a 
hurry  like  that.  A  plateful  of  frying  catfish,  and  he  would 
be  on  his  way.  That  yellow  gal  was  waiting,  and  there  was 
no  time  to  lose.  Eight  miles  covered,  and  two  short  ones 
to  go.  That  saw-mill  fireman  would  have  to  pull  on  that 
Monday-morning  whistle  like  it  was  the  rope  to  the 
promised  land. 

The  smell  of  the  fish  took  him  straight  to  the  fish- 
house  door.  Maybe  they  were  mullets,  but  they  smelled 
just  as  good.  There  wasn't  enough  time  to  order  up  a 
special  dish  of  fins. 

He  had  his  hand  on  the  restaurant  door.  When  he 
had  his  supper,  he  would  be  on  his  way.  He  could  see 
that  yellow  gal  waiting  for  him  only  a  couple  of  miles 
away. 

All  those  boys  were  sitting  at  their  meal.  The  room 
was  full  of  hungry  people  just  like  him.  The  stove  was 
full  of  frying  fish,  and  the  barrel  was  only  half-way  used. 
There  was  enough  good  eating  for  a  hundred  hungry  men. 

He  still  had  his  hand  on  the  fish-house  door,  and  his 
nose  was  soaking  it  in.  If  he  could  have  his  way  about 
it,  some  of  these  days  he  was  going  to  buy  a  barrel  of 
catfish  and  eat  them  every  one. 

393 


Candy-Man  Beechum 

"What's  your  hurry,  Candy-Man?'' 

"No  time  to  waste,  white-boss.   Just  let  me  be." 

The  night  policeman  snapped  open  the  handcuffs, 
and  reached  for  his  arms.  Candy-Man  stepped  away. 

"I  reckon  I'd  better  lock  you  up.  It'll  save  a  lot  of 
trouble.  I'm  getting  tired  of  chasing  fighting  niggers 
all  over  town." 

"I  never  hurt  a  body  in  all  my  life,  white-boss.  And 
I  sure  don't  pick  fights.  You  must  have  the  wrong  nig- 
ger, white-boss.  You  sure  has  got  me  wrong.  I'm  just 
passing  through  for  to  see  my  gal." 

"I  reckon  I'll  play  safe  and  lock  you  up  till  Monday 
morning  just  the  same.  Reach  out  your  hands  for  these 
cuffs,  nigger." 

Candy-Man  stepped  away.  His  yellow  gal  was  on 
his  mind.  He  didn't  feel  like  passing  her  up  for  no  iron- 
bar  jail.  He  stepped  away. 

"I'll  shoot  you  down,  nigger.  One  more  step,  and  I'll 
blast  away." 

"White-boss,  please  just  let  me  be.  I  won't  even  stop 
to  get  my  supper,  and  I'll  shake  my  legs  right  out  of 
town.  Because  I  just  got  to  see  my  gal  before  me  Monday- 
morning  sun  comes  up." 

Candy-Man  stepped  away.  The  night  policeman 
threw  down  the  handcuffs  and  jerked  out  his  gun.  He 
pulled  the  trigger  at  Candy-Man,  and  Candy-Man  fell 
down. 

"There  wasn't  no  cause  for  that,  white-boss.  I'm 
just  a  big  black  nigger  with  itching  feet.  I'd  a  heap 
rather  be  traveling  than  standing  still."  > 

The  people  came  running,  but  some  of  them  turned 
around  and  went  the  other  way.  Some  stood  and  looked 
at  Candy-Man  while  he  felt  his  legs  to  see  if  they  could 
hold  him  up.  He  still  had  two  miles  to  go  before  he  could 
reach  the  top  of  the  ridge. 

The  people  crowded  around,  and  the  night  police- 

394 


Erskjne  Caldwell 

man  put  away  his  gun.  Candy-Man  tried  to  get  up  so 
he  could  be  getting  on  down  the  road.  That  yellow  gal 
of  his  was  waiting  for  him  at  her  door,  straining  on  the 
tips  of  her  toes. 

"  White-boss,  I  sure  am  sorry  you  had  to  go  and  shoot 
me  down.  I  never  bothered  white-folks,  and  they  sure 
oughtn't  bother  me.  But  there  aint  much  use  in  living 
if  that's  the  way  it's  going  to  be.  I  reckon  I'll  just  have  to 
blow  out  the  light  and  fade  away.  Just  reach  me  a  blanket 
so  I  can  cover  my  skin  and  bones." 

"Shut  up,  nigger,"  the  white-boss  said.  "If  you  keep 
on  talking,  I'll  just  have  to  pull  out  my  gun  again  and 
hurry  you  on." 

The  people  drew  back,  so  they  would  not  stand  too 
close.  The  night  policeman  put  his  hand  on  the  butt 
of  his  gun,  where  it  would  be  handy  in  case. 

"If  that's  the  way  it's  to  be,  then  make  way  for  Candy- 
Man  Beechum,  because  here  I  come." 


395 


MRS.   KENT 

by 
Robert  Smith 


ROBERT  SMITH  was  born  in  Boston  in  1905  and  studied  at 
Brown  University.  His  stories  have  appeared  in  Hound  and 
Horn,  Esquire,  Story,  etc.,  and  in  the  1933  anthology  of  the 
O.  Henry  Memorial  Committee. 


MRS.   KENT 

MRS.  KENT,  bulging  fatly  from  her  corset  and 
garters,  stood  before  the  long  mirror  in  her  own 
bedroom,  and  brushed  with  grim  vigor  at  the 
sparse  graying  hank  of  her  hair.  The  window  near  her  was 
open  and  an  infrequent  breeze  puffed  the  long  curtain 
faintly.  The  window  gave  on  an  asphalt  court  with  a 
picket  fence  beyond  it  and  a  vacant  lot  with  a  big  For 
Sale  sign  in  the  center.  In  the  noon  sun,  the  sign  cast  a 
brief  shadow  where  a  fat  tiger  cat  drowsed.  Mrs.  Kent 
could  see  him.  Their  apartment  was  on  the  third  floor. 

As  she  turned  to  put  hairpins  in  her  mouth,  some  move- 
ment outside  caught  her  eye.  She  turned  quickly  in  time 
to  see  a  boy  with  a  stick  creeping  on  tiptoe  toward  Peter, 
the  cat.  For  a  moment  she  was  too  horrified  to  move. 
Then  she  spit  all  the  hairpins  into  her  hand  and,  clutching 
the  kimono  in  front  of  her,  she  leaned  to  the  window. 

"Go  away!"  she  screamed.    "Go  away!" 

The  boy,  startled,  turned  a  small  narrow  face  toward 
her  for  a  brief  instant,  looking  directly  into  her  eyes.  His 
own  eyes  were  little  dead  black  holes.  Then  he  was  gone, 
scuttling  away  like  a  roach  in  the  light. 

Mrs.  Kent,  her  exasperation  not  half  spent,  clung  to  the 
window  frame  and  gazed  down  in  horror. 

"Oh,  dear  heaven,"  she  gasped.    "Dear!" 

She  slipped  her  arms  into  her  kimono  and  then,  bending 
close  to  the  screen,  she  called : 

'"Kitty!  Here  kitty,  kitty,  kitty!  Here  kitty!  Kitty, 
kitty,  kitty!" 

The  cat  came  awake  at  once,  uncoiling  lazily,  and  then, 

Reprinted  from  Story,  November  1935,  with  the  permission  of  the  editors,  and 
of  the  author,  through  his  agent,  Mr.  Morton  Goldman. 

399 


Mrs.  Kent 

recognizing  the  source  of  the  call,  trotted  toward  the 
backstairs,  tail  erect.  Mrs.  Kent  went  to  open  the  back 
door  for  him;  and  when  he  slid  in  she  picked  him  up  and 
held  him  close  for  a  moment,  stroking  and  consoling  him. 
He  struggled  out  of  her  arms  finally  and  she  poured  him 
some  cream.  Then  she  went  to  look  out  the  window  again, 
as  if  she  might  pick  up  scfrne  sign  of  the  boy.  She  tried  to 
remember  which  way  he  had  gone. 

"That  awful,  awful  face,"  she  whispered. 

The  gentle  bong  of  the  living-room  clock  came  to  her. 
She  hurried  into  the  bedroom  to  finish  her  hair,  whispering 
frequently  to  herself.  She  put  on  a  flowered  gown  that 
made  her  seem  rather  tall  and  a  hat  that  was  not  new. 
She  took  her  string  gloves  and  a  plain  white  purse  and 
started  out.  As  she  opened  the  front  door,  Peter  slid  out 
ahead  of  her  and  scurried  down  the  stairs. 

" Peter!"  she  called.  But  he  was  gone  toward  the  cellar; 
and  when  she  reached  the  lobby  there  was  no  sign  of  him. 

" Oh  dear!"  she  whispered. 

Then  she  lifted  her  chin  slightly  and  strode  out,  down 
the  three  steps,  with  a  brief  survey  of  the  street,  and 
started  toward  the  car  tracks.  The  sun  was  hot,  glinting 
from  the  cement  and  quivering  up  from  the  asphalt.  Two 
men  went  by  with  their  coats  on  their  arms  and  sweat 
darkening  their  shirts.  Mrs.  Kent  could  feel  the  moisture 
beginning  to  gather  on  her  face;  and  her  gown  stuck  to  her. 

The  car  stop  was  a  post  with  a  white  band  on  it.  It  was 
in  the  direct  sun  with  no  tree  or  building  near  enough  to 
make  a  shadow.  Mrs.  Kent  stopped,  patting  her  chin  with 
her  handkerchief,  breathless.  She  looked  for  a  policeman, 
so  she  might  report  the  boy  who  had  stalked  Peter.  There 
was  one  far  up  the  street,  at  the  corner,  waving  autos  oh. 
It  was  uphill  in  the  sun  and  Mrs.  Kent  did  not  feel  equal 
to  it.  She  gazed  far  up  the  tracks  for  the  street  car  that 
did  not  come.  She  fluttered  the  handkerchief  weakly  to 
fan  her*  face. 

400 


Robert  Smith 

Finally  the  car  came  and  Mrs.  Kent  climbed  aboard 
with  great  effort,  to  sink  puffing  in  her  seat.  She  had  only  a 
few  blocks  to  go,  and  most  people  would  have  walked; 
but  it  didn't  seem  right  to  Mrs.  Kent  to  walk  from  her 
own  nice  apartment  into  the  slums. 

She  got  off  at  a  dreary  corner  at  the  bottom  of  a  long 
slope.  There  was  a  vacant  store  with  grimy  windows  and 
in  the  doorway  half  a  dozen  little  boys  were  playing  a 
game  with  cards  they  dropped  fluttering  to  the  walk. 
They  kept  screaming  at  each  other: 

"Ya  muzzier!" 

"Yadopeya!  Gida-a-aht!" 

Mrs.  Kent,  descending  without  grace  from  the  street 
car,  eyed  them  dubiously  and  kept  clear  of  them  as  she 
went  by.  She  made  her  way  down  the  crowded  hot  street. 
These  people  all  seemed  to  live  on  the  sidewalk  or  on  their 
stoops;  and  Mrs.  Kent  had  to  pick  a  path  through  little 
groups  that  fell  silent  as  she  passed.  Boys  were  knocking 
rubber  balls  against  the  walls  of  houses  and  frequently 
Mrs.  Kent  paused  to  let  a  ball  bounce  in  front  of  her. 
Girls  of  all  ages  chased  in  the  middle  of  the  street  or 
lounged  on  the  hot  stairways,  often  showing  their  gray  and 
tattered  underclothes.  A  big  girl  in  green  jostled  against 
Mrs.  Kent  as  she  struggled  with  a  small  boy  for  a  stick. 

"Oh!"  said  Mrs.  Kent.  But  the  children  did  not  see  her 
and  she  hurried  on,  shaking  her  head  angrily. 

Number  115  was  a  doorway  about  ten  steps  above  the 
street.  The  door  was  wide  open  and  the  hallway  was  in 
darkness  except  that  the  beginning  of  a  staircase  was 
visible.  There  were  three  dirty  little  girls  on  the  steps 
playing  jacks.  They  took  up  most  of  the  steps;  and 
Mrs.  Kent,  after  pausing  for  them  to  move,  had  to  make 
her  way  around  them.  At  the  top  of  the  steps  a  thin  man 
in  his  undershirt  was  leaning  against  the  doorjamb.  Could 
that  be  he?  thought  Mrs.  Kent.  She  glanced  at  him  and 
he  very  carefully  avoided  meeting  her  gaze,  his  pale  eyes 

401 


Mrs.  Kent 

staring  vacantly  ahead.  She  hurried  in  quickly,  excited 
and  a  little  frightened.  If  that  had  been  he  ...  the 
agitator!  And  if  he  had  known  .  .  .! 

The  stairs  inside  were  creaky  and  dim.  On  the  walls  and 
woodwork  hung  a  smell  of  stale  grease,  a  sweetish  smell 
that  had  grown  old  and  decayed.  It  was  a  familiar  odor 
now  to  Mrs.  Kent.  She  labored  up  the  staircase.  There 
were  doors  at  each  landing,  all  with  round  holes  where 
the  locks  should  have  been  and  light  shining  through.  On 
each  floor  the  toilet  door  stood  open,  giving  out  a  smell 
that  made  Mrs.  Kent  hold  her  breath.  She  was  puffing  and 
nearly  blinded  with  sweat  when  she  reached  the  top  floor. 
It  was  darker  up  here  and  only  light  through  a  square  of 
crinkled  glass  showed  the  Rolfe's  door.  Mrs.  Kent  paused 
outside  for  a  long  moment,  getting  her  breath,  tucking 
wet  strands  of  hair  beneath  her  hat.  A  growing  sense  of 
triumph  gladdened  her.  Now!  She  rapped  briefly  on  the 
glass.  There  was  no  movement  inside,  although  she  could 
hear  a  baby  fretting.  She  rapped  again;  and  finally  some- 
one stirred.  The  door,  which  had  no  latch  or  knob,  swung 
back  noiselessly.  A  little  girl  with  solemn  black  eyes  faced 
her.  She  stared,  frightened,  and  gave  Mrs.  Kent  no  greet- 
ing. Then  without  turning  her  head  or  changing  her 
expression  she  shouted: 

"Ma!" 

There  was  no  answer;  and  the  little  girl  did  not  move 
from  the  doorway.  Mrs.  Kent  pushed  the  door  back  a 
little  farther. 

"All  right,  dear,"  she  said,  authoritatively.  "Mother 
expects  me." 

The  girl  gave  ground  and  Mrs.  Kent  came  in.  The  girl 
still  faced  her,  staring. 

"Ma!"  she  yelled  again.    "It's  the  welfare  lady!" 

There  was  a  sudden  movement  in  the  next  room  and 
the  baby  began  to  yell.  Mrs.  Rolfe  appeared.  She  looked 
just  like  the  girl,  except  that  she  was  leaner  and  more 

402 


Robert  Smith 

hollow-eyed.  She  wore  a  wrinkled  flimsy  Mother  Hubbard 
and  had  no  shoes  on.  She  seemed  to  glide  across  the  floor, 
the  long  garment  almost  hiding  her  feet,  and  when  she 
stood  still  her  stockings  turned  up.  She  smiled  wanly, 
showing  only  three  or  four  teeth. 

"Hello,  Mrs.  Kent,"  she  said  in  a  flat  voice. 

"Tend  to  the  little  fellow  first,  Mrs.  Rolfe,"  said 
Mrs.  Kent.  "I  can  wait." 

Mrs.  Rolfe  shook  her  head. 

"No,"  she  breathed.   "He's  all  right.  He  always  yells." 

Mrs.  Kent  smiled  very  determinedly. 

"No,  no,"  she  snapped.  "Don't  let  him  cry  so.  See 
what  he  wants.  I'll  just  wait." 

She  sat  down  on  a  chair  without  any  back,  setting  her 
mouth.  But  Mrs.  Rolfe  sat  down  opposite  her,  folding  her 
blue-white  hands  quietly  in  her  lap. 

"No,"  she  said.  "He  cries  all  the  time." 

Mrs.  Kent  pressed  her  lips  together  in  exasperation, 
then  she  sighed  heavily,  dabbing  at  her  moist  chin  with 
her  soggy  handkerchief.  Mrs.  Rolfe  waited  for  her  to 
speak.  The  girl  made  off  and  there  was  scuffling  and 
whispering  in  the -kitchen  where  the  other  children  were. 
The  baby's  cries  subsided  gradually. 

"Now,"  said  Mrs.  Kent.  "I've  a  number  of  questions  I 
must  ask." 

Mrs.  Rolfe  lowered  her  eyes. 

"First  of  all,  about  the  money  you're  getting.  You  still 
feel  it's  not  sufficient?" 

Mrs.  Kent's  tone  made  the  question  rhetorical.  Mrs. 
Rolfe  barely  nodded. 

"Well,"  said  Mrs.  Kent.  "I  want  you  to  understand 
this.  The  money  you  are  getting  is  allowed  on  the  basis  of 
having  one  child.  The  others  ,  .  .  we  cannot  .  .  .  the 
State,  that  is,  certainly  cannot  undertake  to  give  its  sanc- 
tion to  such  things.  I  mean  by  that,  the  ones  born  before 
you  and  Mr.  Rolfe.  .  .  ." 

403 


Mrs.  Kent 

Mrs.  Rolfe  lifted  pained  eyes. 

"They  have  to  eat/'  she  murmured. 

"They  have  to  eat.  Of  course,"  said  Mrs.  Kent.  "But 
that  is  something  that  should  have  been  considered.  You 
must  see  that  the  State,  if  it  were  to  recognize,  that  is, 
seem  to  make  it  legal — such  things — well,  you  can  readily 
see.  It  would  lead  to  all  sorts  of  things.  It's  just  impossi- 
ble. .  There  are  homes  of  course.  But  .  .  .  well,  I'm  sure 
you  can  see." 

Mrs.  Rolfe  shook  her  head  wearily  but  did  not  look  up. 
She  unfolded  her  hands  and  plucked  at  her  faded  apron. 
Mrs.  Kent  looked  around  the  dingy  room.  There  seemed 
to  be  new  dark  streaks  on  the  walls  as  if  water  were  seeping 
down  inside  the  paper.  There  was  no  carpet  but  the  bare 
floor  was  unpainted  where  a  carpet  had  been.  The  light 
fixture  was  a  green  knotted  cord  with  an  unshaded  bulb. 

"And  I'm  wondering,"  Mrs.  Kent  went  on,"  if  we're 
being  just  as  careful  as  we  could  be.  So  many  simple  meals 
may  now  be  prepared.  I  mean,  for  very  little.  And  just  as 
good  in  every  way — nourishing,  that  is.  We  mustn't 
pamper  ourselves  you  know." 

Mrs.  Rolfe  shook  her  head  without  looking  up. 

"And  then,"  Mrs.  Kent  went  on,  "I  understand  you 
have  been  keeping  a  cat.  Now  I  shouldn't  need  to  tell 
you  that  the  State  is  in  no  position  to  give  relief  to  families 
that  can  afford  cats — for  certainly.  .  .  .  Well,  such  an 
unnecessary  expense  simply  can't  be  permitted." 

Mrs.  Rolfe  looked  up  quickly,  and  her  eyes  were  moist. 

"That  cat  just  come,"  she  said.  "It  eats  only  scraps. 
And  mice.  It  ain't  no  expense.  The  kids  would  die  with- 
out that  cat." 

Mrs.  Kent's  mouth  made  a  firm  straight  line. 

"I'm  afraid  I'll  have  to  be  quite  definite,"  she  said. 
"  Keeping  that  cat  would  be  sufficient  grounds.  We  should 
be  forced  to  discontinue  relief.  I'm  very  sorry." 

Mrs.  Rolfe's  head  drooped  a  trifle  more. 

404 


Robert  Smith 

"Is  that  clear?"  said  Mrs.  Kent. 

Mrs.  Rolfe  nodded  slightly. 

Mrs.  Kent  cleared  her  throat  and  the  corners  of  her 
mouth  twitched  a  little.  Her  eyes  brightened. 

"And  now,"  she  said,  "About  Mr.  Rolfe.  .  .  ." 

Her  tone  made  Mrs.  Rolfe  look  up  quickly. 

"What  about  him?"  she  whispered. 

"Why,"  said  Mrs.  Kent  with  studied  innocence,  "that's 
precisely  what  I  wish  to  know.  What  about  him  ?  Do  you 
hear  from  him?" 

Mrs.  Rolfe  shook  her  head  dully. 

"And  of  course  he's  not  in  town?  You  don't  know 
where  he  is?" 

"I  ain't  heard." 

"I  see."  Mrs.  Kent  paused  again,  a  hint  of  triumph  in 
her  eyes.  "Of  course  you  understand  why  I'm  interested?" 

Mrs.  Rolfe  raised  her  eyes,  but  did  not  answer. 

"Mr.  Rolfe,"  said  Mrs.  Kent,  "who  can't  seem  to  find 
work  of  any  sort,  has  found  time  to  go  stirring  up  trouble. 
And  I  think  he  will  find  that  he  has  stirred  up  a  good  deal. 
He  has  got  himself  mixed  up  with  these  anarchists  and 
bolsheviks  up  at'Haverhill.  Perhaps  you  read  about  it. 
Two  were  killed." 

Mrs.  Kent  was  practically  out  of  breath.  Her  nostrils 
were  dilated.  Mrs.  Rolfe  did  not  stir  or  make  a  sound. 

"Well,"  said  Mrs.  Kent,  "you  have  no  idea  where  he 
can  be?  You're  sure  he  hasn't  been  around  here?" 

Mrs.  Rolfe  shook  her  head  again. 

"The  police  would  like  to  talk  with  him,"  said 
Mrs.  Kent. 

Still  Mrs.  Rolfe  showed  no  emotion.  Mrs.  Kent  took  a 
deep  breath  and  studied  how  best  to  reveal  what  she  had 
to  say. 

There  were  sudden  thumping  footsteps  on  the  stairs; 
and  Mrs.  Kent  frowned  in  annoyance.  The  door  banged 
open,  admitting  a  boy  about  sixteen.  He  had  on  khaki 

405 


Mrs.  Kent 

trousers  and  an  undershirt.  His  face  was  white  as  pie- 
dough  and  his  arms  were  lank  and  white  as  peeled  sticks. 
He  stopped  short  on  seeing  Mrs.  Kent  and  then  dropped 
his  head  sulkily  and  trudged  toward  the  kitchen. 

"Anything  to  eat,  ma?"  he  asked. 

"There  may  be  some  bread.   If  the  kids  haven't  eat  it." 

The  boy  stopped  and  looked  back,  his  brooding  eyes 
resting  for  a  moment  on  Mrs.  Kent. 

"I  don't  suppose  there's  any  butter  or  anything?" 

"No,"  said  Mrs.  Rolfe. 

"My  God!"  said  the  boy.  "I  thought  there'd  be  some- 
thing to  eat.  I'll  kill  those  damn  kids.  .  .  ." 

"Billy!  "Mrs.  Rolfe  gasped. 

The  boy  pulled  his  mouth  down  at  the  corners  and 
started  back  for  the  kitchen  again.  His  shoulder  blades 
were  like  wings  on  his  back.  He  went  through  the  door 
and  they  heard  him  banging  around  in  the  kitchen,  open- 
ing drawers  and  shifting  pans.  The  scuffling  and  whisper- 
ing grew  louder. 

"You  God  damn  chiselers!"  the  boy's  voice  said. 

"Billy!"  Mrs.  Rolfe  cried,  half-turning. 

Mrs.  Kent  shifted  in  her  chair. 

"Isn't  that  young  fellow  old  enough  to  be  working?" 
she  demanded.  "Something  on  part  time?" 

Mrs.  Rolfe  shook  her  head. 

"He  mustn't  work,"  she  said.  "He  ruptured  him- 
self." 

"He  what?" 

"Ruptured,"  said  Mrs.  Rolfe.  "Down  here." 

Mrs.  Kent  turned  crimson,  her  face  and  neck  and  the  V 
of  her  chest. 

"Oh,"  she  said. 

She  was  annoyed  and  angry  at  the  interruption.  She 
had  forgotten  how  she  meant  to  start.  She  got  up,  slightly 
confused,  and  began  to  unstick  her  dress  where  she  had 
been  sitting  on  it.  The  kitchen  door  opened  and  Billy 

406 


Robert  Smith 

stalked  through  and  out,  trotting  down  the  stairs.  Mrs. 
Kent  waited;  and  Mrs.  Rolfe  studied  her  hands. 

"Perhaps/'  Mrs.  Kent  began  at  last,  " perhaps  you 
may  be  surprised  to  know  that  Mr.  Rolfe  has  been  seen — 
that  we  have  reason  to  believe.  .  .  ." 

The  effect  on  Mrs.  Rolfe  was  electric  and  Mrs.  Kent 
felt  a  sort  of  grim  pleasure.  The  little  woman  straightened 
and  stared,  wide-eyed. 

"Who  seen  him?"  she  demanded. 

Mrs.  Kent  tried  to  determine  whether  the  woman  was 
surprised  or  frightened. 

"That  doesn't  matter,"  she  said,  biting  her  words  off. 
"What  I'm  here  to  tell  you  is  that  unless  you  give  us  some 
definite  help  in  locating  this  man  your  name  must  come 
off  the  relief  rolls  at  once." 

Patches  of  color  showed  on  Mrs.  Rolfe's  wan  face  and 
tears  stood  in  her  eyes.  Her  lips  trembled;  and  it  was 
several  seconds  before  she  could  talk. 

"  I  don't  know  where  he  is,"  she  muttered. 

"Come  now,"  said  Mrs.  Kent.  "Certainly  you  must 
have  some  idea  where  he  is.  You  can't  expect  us  to  be- 
lieve. ...  I  mean  it  simply  isn't  normal  for  a  man  with  a 
family.  The  boy,  perhaps.  He  must  have  seen  him." 

There  was  real  terror  in  the  woman's  eyes  now. 

"He  ain't  seen  him.  There  ain't  none  of  us  seen  him. 
We  don't  know  where  he  is." 

"Well,  I'm  afraid  you  must  make  some  effort  to  find 
him.  The  State  is  putting  it  right  up  to  you,  Mrs.  Rolfe. 
If  you  are  to  continue  to  receive  aid  you  must  help  us 
find  this  trouble-maker.  We  are  determined  to  put  a  stop 
to  his  activities." 

Mrs.  Rolfe's  face  now  was  whiter  than  ever.  Her  blood- 
less lips  were  a  thin  line. 

"I  ain't  going  to  see  Frank  in  jail,"  she  said,  "no  matter 
what." 

"Very  well,"  said  Mrs.  Kent.  She  turned  briskly  away, 

407 


Mrs.  Kent 

then  paused,  expecting  some  word  from  Mrs.  Rolfe.  But 
the  little  woman  got  up  silently  and  padded  ahead  of  her  to- 
ward the  door.  Mrs.  Kent  flushed  angrily,  then  bustled  out. 

"Be  careful  of  the  stairs,"  Mrs.  Rolfe  murmured. 

Mrs.  Kent  said  nothing.  She  went  down  slowly,  holding 
tight  to  the  banister.  These  people!  She  thought.  They 
needed  a  lesson! 

She  blinked  in  the  bright  light  outside.  The  thin  man 
had  not  moved  from  the  door  and  she  had  to  pick  her  way 
through  the  little  girls  again.  She  glanced  back  at  the 
man.  No.  Surely  not  standing  there  so  boldly.  She  hur- 
ried up  the  street,  through  and  around  the  little  gatherings, 
avoiding  the  scampering  children.  A  big  boy  in  his  under- 
shirt ran  on  to  the  sidewalk  ahead  of  her,  after  a  ball. 
It  was  Billy.  He  turned  and  threw  the  ball  far  down  the 
street,  yelling  as  he  did  so.  Mrs.  Kent  had  an  inspiration. 
She  hurried  up  to  him. 

"You're  the  Rolfe  boy,  aren't  you?"  she  said. 

He  turned  and  glared  at  her  suspiciously. 

"Yeh,"hesaid. 

She  made  herself  as  pleasant  as  she  could. 

"I  wonder  if  you  kids  wouldn't  like  some  ice  cream," 
she  said.  "It's  so  hot." 

His  face  brightened  at  once. 

"Sure,"  he  said.    "We  never  get  none." 

Mrs.  Kent  opened  her  purse  and  took  some  dimes  from 
it.  She  dropped  them  into  his  grimy  hand. 

"There,"  she  said.    "Will  that  be  enough?" 

"Oh  sure,"  he  said.    "Sure.   That's  swell." 

"Be  sure  to  get  enough,"  she  smiled.  "And  now,  Billy. 
I'm  going  to  see  your  dad.  I  think  I  have  something  for 
him.  What's  the  easiest  way  to  get  there?" 

Billy  answered  promptly,  anxious  to  be  away. 

"We  usually  walk,"  he  said.  "It  ain't  so  far.  But  you 
could  take  the  street  car.  He's  out  to  grandma's — out  on 
Vinton  Street." 

408 


Robert  Smith 

Mrs.  Kent  beamed. 

"That's  fine!"  she  said.  "Fine!  What  number  was 
that?" 

He  wrinkled  his  brow  at  her.  Then  suddenly  a  little  girl 
began  to  yell: 

"Billee!   Bill-eee!" 

Mrs.  Kent  turned  to  see  the  Rolfe  girl  running  toward 
them.  She  nodded  quickly  to  Billy  and  started  away. 
She  would  find  it.  Vinton  Street.  She  heard  the  little  girl: 

"Ma  says  you  ain't  to  tell  her!  Don't  you  tell  her  noth- 
ing!" 

Mrs.  Kent  quickened  her  pace.  It  wouldn't  do  to  run. 
Undignified.  She  heard  the  boy  yell  angrily: 

"I  told  her  already!" 

There  were  confused  shouts  behind  her.  People  standing 
on  the  sidewalk  ahead  of  her  looked  back  in  surprise. 
Several  men  and  women  moved  down  from  their  steps. 
Fear  clutched  at  Mrs.  Kent's  heart.  She  lowered  her  eyes 
and  hurried  grimly  along.  These  people!  If  they  should 
all.  ...  If  they  should  all  be  in  it  together.  .  .  .  She 
glanced  wildly  around  for  a  policeman.  They  should  have 
more  in  these  terrible  districts.  Suddenly  a  hand  clutched 
her  sleeve  and  she  screamed,  without  meaning  to.  A 
hundred  faces  turned  toward  her. 

Bill's  white  face  was  near  her. 

"God  damn  you!"  he  yelled.     "You  made  me  tell!" 

She  tore  herself  out  of  his  grasp,  and  her  lovely  sleeve 
ripped.  She  began  to  moan  in  terror  and  practically 
clawed  her  way  through  the  crowd.  She  heard  the  swelling 
voices : 

"What's  the  matter?   What'd  she  do?" 

Oh!  Oh!  If  they  should  all  be  in  on  it  together!  If  they 
should  all  decide.  .  .  .  They  were  all  around  her.  She 
fought  her  way  along,  running  now.  Billy  was  beside  her 
again  and  she  beat  at  him  madly.  She  could  no  longer 
make  out  what  the  voices  said.  She  felt  her  hat  slip  and 

409 


Mrs.  Kent 

heard  her  gown  tear  again.  Something  struck.  They 
couldn't!  The  beasts!  This  couldn't  happen  to  her!  What 
had  she  ever.  .  .?  She  had  always  done  good.  .  .  . 
Blood  pounded  in  her  ears.  Oh,  I  mustn't  run.  The  doctor! 
Oh,  mercy!  Oh,  don't  kill  me!  She  was  aware  of  her  own 
screams. 

Then  suddenly  there  was  a  policeman,  and  she  clung 
to  him.  His  buttons  scratched  her  face.  His  voice  rum- 
bled. He  should  shoot,  she  thought  madly.  He  should 
shoot  the  beasts.  The  beasts!  Her  heart  seemed  to  fill 
her  chest  and  her  head  spun  in  a  purpling  swirl.  She 
felt  herself  slide  .  .  .  away  .  .  .  away  .  .  .  away. 


410 


PROFESSOR 
by 

Langston  Hughes 


For  biographical  note  about  Langston  Hughes,  see  page  204. 


PROFESSOR 

PROMPTLY  at  seven  a  big  car  drew  up  in  front  of 
the  Booker  T.  Washington  Hotel,  and  a  white  chauf- 
feur in  uniform  got  out  and  went  toward  the  door, 
intending  to  ask  at  the  desk  for  a  colored  professor  named 
T.  Walton  Brown.  But  the  professor  was  already  there, 
sitting  in  the  lobby,  a  white  scarf  around  his  neck  and 
his  black  overcoat  ready  to  button  over  his  dinner  clothes. 

As  soon  as  the  chauffeur  entered,  the  professor  ap- 
proached. "Mr.  Chandler's  car?"  he  asked  hesitantly. 

"Yes,  sir,"  said  the  white  chauffeur  to  the  clean  little 
Negro.  "Are  you  Dr.  Walton  Brown?" 

"  I  am,"  said  the  professor,  smiling  and  bowing  a  little. 

The  chauffeur  opened  the  street  door  for  Dr.  Brown, 
then  ran  to  the  car  and  held  the  door  open  there  too. 
Inside  the  big  car  the  lights  came  on,  and  on  the  long  black 
running-board  as  well.  The  professor  stepped  in  among 
the  soft  cushions,  the  deep  rug  and  the  cut  glass  vases 
holding  flowers.  With  the  greatest  of  deference  the  chauf- 
feur quickly  tucked  a  covering  of  fur  about  the  profes- 
sor's knees,  closed  the  door,  entered  his  own  seat  in  front, 
beyond  the  glass  partition,  and  the  big  car  purred  away. 
Within  the  lobby  of  the  cheap  hotel,  a  few  ill-clad  Negroes 
watched  the  whole  procedure  in  amazement. 

"A  big  shot!"  somebody  said. 

At  the  corner  as  the  car  passed,  two  or  three  ash-colored 
children  ran  across  the  street  in  front  of  the  wheels,  their 
skinny  legs  and  cheap  clothes  plain  in  the  glare  of  the 
headlights  as  the  chauffeur  slowed  down  to  let  them  pass. 

Reprinted  from  The  Anvil  (May- June  1935),  where  it  appeared  under  the 
title  Dr.  Brown's  Decision,  by  permission  of  the  author,  and  his  agent,  Mr. 
Maxim  Leiber. 

413 


Professor 

Then  the  car  turned  and  ran  the  whole  length  of  a  Negro 
street  that  was  lined  with  pawn  shops,  beer  joints,  pig's 
knuckle  stands,  ten  cent  movies,  hair-dressing  parlors 
and  other  ramshackle  places  of  business  patronized  by 
the  poor  blacks  of  the  district.  Inside  the  big  car  the 
professor,  Dr.  Walton  Brown,  regretted  that  in  all  the 
large  cities  where  he  had  lectured  on  his  present  tour  in 
behalf  of  his  college,  the  main  Negro  streets  presented 
this  same  sleazy  and  disagreeable  appearance:  pig's 
knuckle  joints,  pawn  shops,  beer  parlors — and  houses  of 
vice,  no  doubt — save  that  these  latter,  at  least,  did  not 
hang  out  their  signs. 

The  professor  looked  away  from  the  unpleasant  sight 
of  this  typical  Negro  street,  poor  and  unkempt.  He 
looked  ahead  through  the  glass  at  the  dignified  white  neck 
of  the  uniformed  chauffeur  in  front  of  him.  The  professor 
in  his  dinner  clothes,  his  brown  face  even  browner  above 
the  white  silk  scarf  at  his  neck,  felt  warm  and  comfortable 
under  the  fur  rug — but  he  felt,  too,  a  little  unsafe  at  being 
driven  through  the  streets  of  this  city  on  the  edge  of  the 
South  in  an  expensive  car,  by  a  white  chauffeur. 

"But  then,"  he  thought,  "this  is  the  wealthy 
Mr.  Ralph  P.  Chandler's  car,  and  surely  no  harm  can 
come  to  me  here.  The  Chandlers  are  a  power  in  the 
Middle  West,  and  in  the  South  as  well.  Theirs  is  one  of 
the  great  fortunes  of  America.  In  philanthropy,  nobody 
exceeds  them  in  well-planned  generosity  on  a  large  and 
highly  publicized  scale.  They  are  a  power  in  Negro  educa- 
tion, too,  and  that  is  why  I  am  visiting  them  tonight,  at 
their  invitation." 

Just  now,  the  Chandlers  were  interested  in  the  little 
Negro  college  at  which  the  professor  taught.  They  wanted 
to  make  it  one  of  the  major  Negro  colleges  of  America. 
And  in  particular  the  Chandlers  were  interested  in  fiis 
Department  of  Sociology.  They  were  thinking  of  endow- 
ing a  chair  of  research  there,  and  employing  a  man  of 

414 


Langston  Hughes 

ability  for  it.  A  Ph.  D.  and  a  scholar.  A  man  of  some 
prestige,  too,  like  the  professor.  For  his  The  Sociology  oj 
Prejudice  (that  restrained  and  conservative  study  of 
Dr.  T.  Walton  Brown's)  had  recently  come  to  the  atten- 
tion of  the  Chandler  Committee,  and  a  representative  of 
their  philanthropies,  visiting  the  campus,  had  conversed 
with  the  professor  at  some  length  about  his  book  and  his 
views.  This  representative  of  the  Committee  found 
Dr.  Brown  highly  gratifying,  because  in  almost  every 
case  the  professor's  views  agreed  with  the  white  man's 
own. 

"A  fine,  sane,  dependable  young  Negro,"  was  the 
description  that  came  to  the  Chandler  Committee  from 
their  traveling  representative. 

So  now  the  power  himself,  Mr.  Ralph  P.  Chandler, 
and  Mrs.  Chandler,  learning  that  he  was  lecturing  at  the 
colored  churches  of  the  town,  had  invited  him  to  dinner 
at  their  mansion  in  this  city  on  the  edge  of  the  South. 
Their  car  had  come  to  call  for  him  at  the  colored  Booker  T. 
Washington  Hotel — where  the  hot  water  was  always  cold, 
the  dresser  drawers  stuck  and  the  professor  shivered  as 
he  got  into  his  dinner  clothes;  and  the  bellboys,  anxious 
for  a  tip,  had  asked  him  twice  if  he  needed  a  half  pint  or  a 
woman. 

But  now  he  was  in  a  big  warm  car  and  they  were  mov- 
ing swiftly  down  a  wide  boulevard,  the  black  slums  far 
behind  them.  The  professor  was  glad.  He  had  been  very 
much  distressed  at  having  the  white  chauffeur  call  for 
him  at  this  cheap  Negro  hotel  in  what  really  amounted 
to  the  red  light  district  of  the  town.  But  then  none  of 
the  white  hotels  in  this  American  city  would  keep  Negroes, 
no  matter  how  cultured  they  might  be.  Roland  Hayes 
himself  had  been  unable  to  find  decent  accommodations 
there,  so  the  colored  papers  said,  on  the  day  of  his  concert. 

Sighing,  the  professor  looked  out  of  the  car  at  the  wide 
lawns  and  fine  homes  that  lined  the  beautiful  and  well- 


Professor 

lighted  boulevard  where  white  people  lived.  After  a 
time  the  car  turned  into  a  fashionable  suburban  road, 
and  one  saw  no  more  houses,  but  only  ivy-hung  walls 
and  shrubs  and  box  woods  that  indicated  not  merely 
homes  beyond,  but  vast  estates.  Shortly  the  car  whirled 
into  a  paved  driveway,  past  a  small  lodge,  through  a 
park  full  of  fountains  and  trees  and  up  to  a  private  house 
as  large  as  a  hotel.  From  a  tall  portico  a  great  hanging 
lantern  cast  a  soft  glow  on  the  black  and  nickel  of  the 
body  of  the  big  car.  The  white  chauffeur  jumped  out 
and  deferentially  opened  the  door  for  the  colored  pro- 
fessor. An  English  butler  welcomed  him  at  the  entrance, 
and  took  his  coat  and  hat  and  scarf.  Then  he  led  the 
professor  into  a  large  drawing  room  where  two  men  and 
a  woman  were  standing  chatting  near  the  fireplace. 

The  professor  hesitated,  not  knowing  who  was  who; 
but  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Chandler  came  forward,  introduced 
themselves,  shook  hands  and  in  turn  presented  their 
other  guest  of  the  evening,  Dr.  Bulwick  of  the  Municipal 
College — a  college  that  Dr.  Brown  recalled  did  not  admit 
Negroes. 

"I  am  happy  to  know  you,"  said  Dr.  Bulwick.  "I  am 
also  a  sociologist." 

"I  have  heard  of  you,"  said  Dr.  Brown  graciously. 

The  butler  came  with  sherry  in  a  silver  pitcher.  They 
sat  down,  and  the  whites  began  to  talk  politely,  to  ask 
Dr.  Brown  about  his  lecture  tour,  if  his  audiences  were 
good,  if  they  were  mostly  Negro  or  mixed,  and  if  there 
was  much  interest  in  his  college,  much  money  being  given. 

Then  Dr.  Bulwick  began  to  ask  about  his  book,  The 
Sociology  of  Prejudice,  where,  he  got  his  material,  under 
whom  he  had  studied,  and  if  he  thought  the  Negro  Prob- 
lem would  ever  be  solved. 

Dr.  Brown  said  genially,  "We  are  making  progress," 
which  was  what  he  always  said,  though  he  often  felt  as 
if  he  were  lying. 


Langston  Hughes 

"Yes,"  said  Dr.  Bulwick,  "that  is  very  true.  Why,  at 
our  city  college  here  we  have  been  conducting  some  fine 
inter-racial  experiments.  I  have  had  several  colored 
ministers  and  high  school  teachers  visit  my  classes.  We 
found  them  most  intelligent  people." 

In  spite  of  himself  Dr.  Brown  had  to  say,  "But  you 
have  no  colored  students  at  your  college,  have  you?" 

"No,"  said  Dr.  Bulwick,  "and  that  is  too  bad!  But 
that  is  one  of  our  difficulties  here.  There  is  no  Municipal 
College  for  Negroes — although  nearly  forty  percent  of 
our  population  is  colored.  Some  of  us  have  thought  it 
might  be  wise  to  establish  a  separate  junior  college  for 
our  Negroes,  but  the  politicians  opposed  it  on  the  score 
of  no  funds.  And  we  cannot  take  them  as  students  on  our 
campus.  That,  at  present,  is  impossible.  It's  too  bad." 

"But  do  you  not  think,  Dr.  Brown,"  interposed 
Mrs.  Chandler,  who  wore  diamonds  on  her  wrists  and 
smiled  every  time  she  spoke,  "do  you  not  think  your 
people  are  happier  in  schools  of  their  own — that  it  is 
really  better  for  both  groups  not  to  mix  them?" 

In  spite  of  himself  Dr.  Brown  replied,  "That  depends, 
Mrs.  Chandler.  I  could  not  have  gotten  my  degree  in 
any  schools  of  our  own." 

"True,  true,"  said  Mr.  Chandler.  "Advanced  studies, 
of  course,  cannot  be  gotten.  But  when  your  colleges  are 
developed — as  we  hope  they  will  be,  and  as  our  Com- 
mittee plans  to  aid  in  their  development — when  their 
departments  are  headed  by  men  like  yourself,  for  instance, 
then  you  can  no  longer  say,  'That  depends'." 

"You  are  right,"  Dr.  Brown  agreed  diplomatically, 
coming  to  himself  and  thinking  of  his  mission  in  that 
house.  "You  are  right,"  Dr.  Brown  said,  thinking  too  of 
that  endowed  chair  of  sociology  and  himself  in  the  chair, 
the  six  thousand  dollars  a  year  that  he  would  probably 
be  paid,  the  surveys  he  might  make  and  the  books  he 
could  publish.  "You  are  right,"  said  Dr.  Brown  diplo- 

417 


Professor 

matically  to  Mr.  Ralph  P.  Chandler — but  in  the  back  of 
his  head  was  that  ghetto  street  full  of  sleazy  misery  he 
had  just  driven  through,  and  the  segregated  hotel  where 
his  hot  water  was  always  cold,  and  the  colored  churches 
where  he  lectured  to  masses  of  simple  folks  exploited  by 
money-grabbing  ministers  he  dared  not  warn  them  against, 
and  the  Jimcrow  schools  where  Negroes  always  got  the 
worst  of  it — less  equipment  and  far  less  money  than  the 
white  institutions;  and  that  separate  justice  of  the  South 
where  his  people  sat  on  trial  but  the  whites  were  judge 
and  jury  forever — like  Scottsboro;  and  all  the  segregated 
Jimcrow  things  that  America  gave  Negroes  and  that 
were  never  better,  or  even  equal  to  the  things  she  gave 
the  whites.  But  Dr.  Brown  said,  "You  are  right, 
Mr.  Chandler,"  for,  after  all,  Mr.  Chandler  had  the 
money! 

So  he  began  to  talk  earnestly  to  the  Chandlers  there 
in  the  warm  drawing  room  about  the  need  for  bigger  and 
better  black  colleges,  for  more  and  more  surveys  of  Negro 
life,  and  a  well-developed  department  of  sociology  at 
his  own  little  institution. 

"  Dinner  is  served,"  said  the  butler. 

They  rose  and  went  into  a  dining  room  where  there 
were  flowers  on  the  table,  and  candles,  and  much  white 
linen  and  silver,  and  where  Dr.  Brown  was  seated  at  the 
right  of  the  hostess,  and  the  talk  was  light  over  the  soup, 
but  serious  and  sociological  again  by  the  time  the  meat 
was  served. 

"The  American  Negro  must  not  be  taken  in  by  Com- 
munism," Dr.  Bulwick  was  saying  with  great  positiveness 
as  the  butler  passed  the  peas. 

"He  won't,"  agreed  Dr.  Brown.  "I  assure  you,  our 
leadership  stands  squarely  against  it."  He  looked  at  the 
Chandlers  and  bowed.  "Dr.  Kelly  Miller  stands  against 
it,  and  Dr.  Du  Bois,  Dr.  Hope  and  Dr.  Morton.  All  the 
best  people  stand  against  it." 

418 


Langston  Hughes 

"America  has  done  too  much  for  the  Negro,"  said 
Mr.  Chandler,  "for  him  to  seek  to  destroy  it." 

Dr.  Brown  bobbed  and  bowed. 

"In  your  Sociology  of  Prejudice"  said  Dr.  Bulwick, 
"I  highly  approve  of  the  closing  note,  your  magnificent 
appeal  to  the  old  standards  of  Christian  morality  and  the 
simple  concept  of  justice  on  which  America  was  founded." 

"Yes,"  said  Dr.  Brown,  nodding  his  dark  head  and 
thinking  suddenly  how  on  six  thousand  dollars  a  year, 
he  might  take  his  family  to  Paris  in  the  summer,  where 
for  three  months  they  wouldn't  feel  like  Negroes.  "Yes, 
Dr.  Bulwick,"  he  nodded,  "I  firmly  believe  as  you  do 
that  if  the  best  elements  of  both  races  came  together  in 
Christian  fellowship,  we  would  solve  this  problem  of 
ours." 

"How  beautiful,"  said  Mrs.  Chandler. 

"And  practical,  too,"  said  her  husband.  "But  now 
to  come  back  to  your  college — university,  I  believe  you 
call  it — to  bring  that  institution  up  to  really  first  class 
standards  you  would  need  .  .  .  ?" 

"We  would  need  .  .  .  ,"  said  Dr.  Brown,  speaking 
as  a  mouthpiece  of  the  administration,  and  speaking, 
too,  as  mouthpiece  for  the  Negro  students  of  his  section 
of  the  South,  and  speaking  for  himself  as  a  once  ragged 
youth  who  had  attended  the  college  when  its  rating  was 
lower  than  that  of  a  Northern  high  school  and  when  he 
had  to  study  two  years  in  Boston  before  he  could  enter 
a  white  college,  when  he  had  worked  nights  as  red  cap 
in  the  station  and  then  as  a  waiter  for  seven  years  until 
he  got  his  Ph.  D.  and  couldn't  get  a  job  in  the  North 
but  had  to  go  back  down  South  to  the  work  he  had 
now — but  which  might  develop  into  a  glorious  oppor- 
tunity at  six  thousand  dollars  a  year  to  make  surveys 
and  put  down  figures  that  other  scholars  might  study 
to  get  their  Ph.  D.'s,  and  that  would  bring  him  in  enough 
to  just  once  take  his  family  to  Europe  where  they 

419 


Professor 

wouldn't  feel  that  they  were  Negroes.  "We  would  need, 
Mr.  Chandler.  .  .  ." 

And  the  things  Dr.  Brown's  little  college  needed  were 
small  enough  in  the  eyes  of  the  Chandlers.  And  the  sane 
and  conservative  way  in  which  Dr.  Brown  presented  his 
case  delighted  the  philanthropic  heart  of  the  Chandlers. 
And  Mr.  Chandler  and  Dr.  Bulwick  both  felt  that  instead 
of  building  a  junior  college  for  Negroes  in  their  own  town 
they  could  rightfully  advise  colored  students  from  now 
on  to  go  down  South  to  that  fine  little  campus  where 
they  had  a  man  of  their  own  race  like  Dr.  Brown. 

Over  the  coffee,  in  the  drawing  room,  they  talked 
about  the  coming  theatrical  season  and  Four  Saints  In 
Three  Acts.  And  Mrs.  Chandler  spoke  of  how  she  loved 
Negro  singers,  and  smiled  and  smiled. 

In  due  time,  the  professor  rose  to  go.  The  car  was 
called,  and  he  shook  hands  with  Dr.  Bulwick  and  the 
Chandlers.  The  white  people  were  delighted  with 
Dr.  Brown.  He  could  see  it  in  their  faces,  just  as  in  the 
past  he  could  always  tell  as  a  waiter  when  he  had  pleased 
a  table  full  of  whites  by  tender  steaks  and  good  service. 

"Tell  the  president  of  your  college  he  shall  hear  from 
us  shortly,"  said  the  Chandlers.  "We'll  probably  send 
a  man  down  again  soon  to  talk  to  him  about  his  expansion 
program."  And  they  bowed  farewell. 

A  few  moments  later  in  the  car  as  it  sped  him  back 
toward  town,  Dr.  Brown  sat  under  the  soft  fur  rug  among 
the  deep  cushions  and  thought  how  with  six  thousand 
dollars  a  year  earned  by  jigging  properly  to  the  tune  of 
Jimcrow  education,  he  could  carry  his  whole  family  to 
Europe  where  just  once  for  a  summer  they  wouldn't  need 
to  feel  like  Negroes. 


420 


$595   F.   O.   B. 

by 
George  H.  Corey 


GEORGE  HARVE  COREY,  American  born  and  now  in  his 
early  thirties,  has  had  a  career  of  what  he  calls  "strange 
occupational  patterns,"  of  which  the  following  may  be  men- 
tioned: bell-hop,  cabin  boy,  worker  in  a  garage,  seller  of 
Fuller  brushes  and  magazines,  sailor,  dock-hand,  assembler 
in  a  Ford  factory,  handyman  to  a  race  track  bookmaker. 
"Discouraged  with  these  efforts"  he  writes  in  a  biographical 
note  in  Story,  which  published  his  first  short  story,  $595 
F.  O.  B.,  "7  entered  dental  school,  graduated  in  the  course 
of  time  and  became  licensed  to  practice.  Unable  to  finance 
an  office  I  accepted  an  appointment  to  teach  and  practice 
oral  surgery  at  the  Shantung  Christian  University,  a  mis- 
sionary school  in  Tsinan,  China.  War,  famine,  alcohol 
and  missionaries  concluded  this  incident  and  I  wandered 
about  China  supporting  myself  writing  for  news  press 
services,  newspapers,  practising  dentistry  and  for  a  while 
operating  a  motion  picture  show  in  an  interior  Chinese 
city."  Continuing  his  career  as  reporter  and  press  agent 
in  China,  Japan,  and  South  America,  he  finally  came  back 
to  the  United  States  in  1932  and  entered  the  advertising 
business,  first  in  New  York  and  then  in  Chicago. 


#595   F.   O.   B. 

KNOW  what  this  is?"  asked  the  Police  Lieutenant. 
"Sure,  it's  a  metal  rasp,"  replied  Slim. 
"Ever  see  one  like  it  before?"  queried  the  officer. 

"Certainly,  we  use  them  all  the  time  out  at  the  auto 
plant,"  Slim  answered. 

"Ever  see  this  particular  file  before?" 

The  Lieutenant  pushed  the  rasp  over  the  edge  of  the 
desk  close  to  the  faces  of  the  two  men  standing  before 
him.  Slim,  young  and  straight,  turned  to  the  bent  figure 
of  Monahan  at  his  side.  The  old  man's  eyes  were  intent 
upon  the  file.  The  Lieutenant  raised  his  voice  and  re- 
peated: 

"I  asked  you  if  you'd  ever  seen  this  particular  file 
before?" 

Light,  ochreous  and  feeble,  from  a  lamp  on  the  police 
desk  fell  across  the  two  men's  puzzled  faces.  Their  eyes 
were  fixed  upon  the  smooth,  sweat-stained  handle  of  the 
rasp  held  in  the  policeman's  outstretched  arm.  On  its 
blackened,  circular  end  they  read  the  letters,  TINY,  crudely 
scratched  into  the  greasy  wood.  The  old  man  twisted  his 
head  and  stared  at  the  bare,  green  wall  behind  the  desk. 
Slim  lifted  his  eyes  to  the  level  of  the  officer's  tense  face. 

"Recognize  it,  now?"  asked  the  Lieutenant. 

"It's  Tiny's,  I  guess,"  Slim  said. 

Monahan  nodded  his  spotty,  bald  head  "slowly  up  and 
down.  The  policeman  relaxed  and  leaned  back  into  his 
chair.  He  dropped  the  heavy  file  onto  the  top  of  the 
desk  and  picked  up  two  pieces  of  typewritten  paper. 

"I  want  you  to  sign  these  papers,"  he  said.     "All  it 

Reprinted  from  Story,  September  1935,  by  permission  of  the  editors  and  of 
the  author. 

423 


$595  F.  O.  B. 

says  on  them  is  that  you  have  identified  this  file  as  one 
used  by  this  fellow  Tiny  Cady  at  the  auto  plant." 

He  handed  each  of  the  men  a  paper  and  continued : 

"Sign  them  and  go  home  to  bed.  If  you  want  to  think 
it  over,  we've  got  a  couple  of  cells  downstairs  for  thinking." 

Slim  looked  dumbly  at  Monahan  as  the  old  man 
shrugged  his  shoulders  and  said: 

"There's  no  out  on  that.    Give  us  a  pen." 

"Seems  like  a  hell  of  a  lot  of  rumpus  over  a  guy  stealin' 
a  lousy  fifty-cent  file,"  murmured  Slim. 

The  Lieutenant  blotted  the  signatures  and  rose  from 
his  chair.  He  stepped  down  from  the  dais,  walked  around 
in  front  of  the  desk  and  stood  beside  the  two  men. 

"You've  got  nothing  to  worry  about,  boys.  Go  on 
home  now." 

Obediently  Slim  and  Monahan  moved  off  toward  the 
door  to  the  street. 

Monahan  and  Slim  walked  along  in  silence  until  they 
reached  the  corner  of  Canal  and  Royal  Streets.  The 
hands  on  a  big  clock  in  front  of  a  jewelry  store  pointed 
to  6:30.  It  was  light  now  and  the  street  cars  rattling 
down  toward  the  river  were  crowded  with  factory  workers. 
Monahan  looked  at  the  clock  and  said: 

"Crise,  Slim,  we  can  just  about  make  it  to  the  factory." 

Slim  didn't  answer  him. 

"C'mon,  Slim,  we  got  to  step  on  it,"  repeated  Monahan. 

"I'm  not  going  back  to  the  factory,  Monahan.  If 
they  ask  you  about  me  tell  'em  I'm  through.  Tell  'em 
I've  quit,"  replied  Slim. 

Slim  turned  quickly  and  crossed  the  street.  He  con- 
tinued down  Canal  Street  and  turned  off  at  Tehopatoulas. 
A  few  doors  from  the  corner  he  entered  a  saloon  crowded 
with  longshoremen.  They  were  gathered  round  a  small 
bar  and  seated  at  tables  drinking  sugar  mash  whiskey. 
Slim  slid  into  a  chair  at  a  table  in  a  corner  and  ordered 

424 


George  H.  Corey 

a  double  shot.  The  first  swallow  tasted  like  all  the  evil- 
smelling  sweet  things  his  nose  had  ever  encountered. 
The  whiskey's  sickening,  sweet  smell  was  dissipated  by 
the  knife-like  burn  it  set  up  in  his  throat.  The  next  drink 
went  easier. 

Quick  warmth  and  a  loosening  of  tension  followed  the 
next  glass.  The  jumbled  happenings  of  the  past  twelve 
hours  became  fused  with  the  events  of  the  last  year. 

Tiny's  friendly,  grinning  face  was  a  haven  of  refuge 
on  that  first  day  in  the  auto  factory.  Slim  tagged  along 
behind  the  big  Texan  as  he  showed  the  newcomer  where 
to  stow  his  clothes  and  where  to  get  his  tools.  Clad  in 
makeshift  work  clothes  worn  shabby  by  his  bulging  knees 
and  elbows,  Tiny  pointed  out  Slim's  locker  and  gave  him 
the  key.  The  Texan's  head,  which  towered  a  foot  above 
Slim's,  was  topped  with  the  battered  crown  of  a  soft  hat 
that  had  once  been  gray.  The  brim  had  been  carefully 
cut  away  and  its  original  color  was  lost  under  heavy 
smudges  of  grease  and  dirt.  Other  workmen  passed 
through  the  locker  room  while  Slim  got  into  his  overalls. 
Tiny's  face,  red  and  alive,  seemed  ever  set  to  break  into 
a  great  roar  of  laughter.  Slim  looked  at  the  faces  of  other 
workmen.  In  the  colorless  light  coming  through  the  frosted 
glass  windows  they  were  grim,  the  color  of  green  slate. 

"Ever  done  this  kind  of  work  before?"  asked  Tiny. 

"Never  in  my  life,"  said  Slim.  "I  was  a  sailor  last 
thing  I  did." 

"You're  goin'  to  be  a  metal  finisher  now,  kid,"  con- 
tinued Tiny.  "You've  got  to  learn  to  sling  a  file,  see? 
It's  a  hell  of  a  job,  but  you'll  get  onto  it." 

"I  hope  so,"  Slim  smiled. 

"You'll  get  wise  to  everything  in  quick  order,"  added 
Tiny. 

"I'm  kind  of  light  to  swing  a  file  and  do  much  good, 
ain't  I?"  added  Slim. 

425 


$595  F.  O.  B. 

"That's  all  right.  There  ain't  room  enough  on  that 
damned  line  for  many  guys  as  big  as  me." 

"Okay,  I'm  all  set.  Where  do  we  go?"  said  Slim,  but- 
toning his  pants. 

"Wait  a  minute,  kid,  or  what  do  they  call  you?" 

"My  name's  Slim.    Slim  Ewell." 

"Okay  then,  Slim,  but  wait  a  second.  These  here 
lockers,  see  them?  Well,  never  put  nothin'  in  them  you 
don't  want  the  superintendent  to  see.  The  bastards  go 
through  'em  every  once  in  a  while  lookin'  for  Union  Cards, 
Wobbley  tickets,  and  booze.  They'll  fire  you  cold  for 
findin'  any  of  'em.  Watch  your  step  on  that  stuff." 

"Who's  our  boss?"  asked  Slim. 

"I'm  head  of  the  crew  you'll  work  in,  but  a  big  Polack 
named  Krakowski's  foreman  of  the  whole  line.  He  ain't 
a  bad  guy,  but  he's  gettin'  old  and  cranky.  Raises  hell 
sometimes,  but  don't  pay  no  attention  to  him." 

"I'm  scared  I'll  bugger  things  up  there  at  first,"  said 
Slim. 

"Don't  worry  'bout  that.  There's  lots  of  new  guys 
turnin'  to  on  the  line,  these  days." 

"Who  else's  in  your  crew,  Tiny?" 

"I  got  four  good  guys  that's  been  here  quite  a  while. 
A  young  guy  named  Joey,  an  Irishman  'bout  your  size 
named  Monahan,  a  German  called  Gus,  and  a  big  Greek. 
That  makes  six  of  us  now.  We  get  a  dime  apiece  for  every 
unit  that  comes  over  the  line.  Did  they  explain  that  part 
to  you?" 

"A  dime  apiece  for  each  car?"  asked  Slim. 

Tiny  burst  into  a  deep  belly-laugh. 

"Crise,  no.  Not  a  dime  apiece.  The  six  of  us  splits  a 
dime." 

"That  don't  seem  like  much  money,  does  it?" 

"It  ain't,  Slim,  but  we  bats  off  a  hell  of  a  lot  of  dimes. 
Right  now  the  line  ain't  goin'  so  fast  on  account  they  got 
a  lot  of  green  men  startin'  in.  We're  runnin'  'bout  fifty 

426 


George  H.  Corey 

bodies  an  hour  just  now,  but  I  hear  they're  goin'  to  step 
it  up  today  yet." 

"Step  it  up  more  than  fifty?" 

"Wait'll  you  see  the  line  when  that  Polack  turns  that 
ol'  switch  so's  she's  rollin'  seventy  and  eighty  jobs  an 
hour  along  her  back.  It's  a  bitch-kitty,  then,  I'll  tell  ya." 

Tiny  opened  the  door  leading  to  the  factory  and  a 
wave  of  sounds  enveloped  them.  They  walked  through 
a  maze  of  machinery  clustered  thick  with  men.  Tiny 
raised  an  arm  in  a  friendly  salute  as  he  passed  each  group. 
The  workmen  lifted  their  faces  from  their  tasks  to  return 
the  greeting.  Slim  followed  carefully  behind  the  big 
Texan  until  they  drew  up  to  a  long  steel  track  that  ran 
from  one  end  of  the  factory  to  the  other.  Tiny  put  his 
hands  to  his  mouth  and  shouted  into  Slim's  ear: 

"That's  the  line,  Kid.    Half  a  mile  long." 

Slim  stepped  back  a  few  feet  to  look  at  the  other  end. 
Directly  in  front  of  him  he  saw  two  steel  tracks,  several 
feet  apart,  across  which  were  suspended  steel  rollers.  In  a 
narrow  fissure  down  the  center  and  parallel  with  the 
tracks  an  endless  chain  moved  slowly  forward.  On  both 
sides  of  the  "line"  as  far  as  he  could  see  hundreds  of  men 
were  working  on  the  gray  metal  shells  which  crudely  re- 
sembled the  bodies  of  automobiles. 

"This  is  the  sedan  line,"  Tiny  roared.  "The  bodies  roll 
off  the  other  end  all  finished,  painted  and  everything." 

Slim's  eyes  fell  upon  a  thick  white  mark  painted  on  the 
floor  at  right  angles  to  the  line.  Twenty  feet  farther  down 
he  noticed  a  similar  line.  He  nudged  Tiny  and  pointed 
to  the  white  marking  nearest  him.  Tiny  glanced  at  his 
pointing  finger  and  yelled: 

"Got  to  finish  your  job  this  side  of  that  mark.  Other 
side  of  it  the  bodies  belong  to  the  grinders.  Let's 'go  now! 
Watch  me  for  a  minute  and  then  you  can  start." 

Tiny  picked  up  a  huge  file  and  walked  to  the  end  of  the 
line  where  four  other  men,  files  in  hand,  stood  waiting. 

427 


$595  F.  O.  B. 

No  one  noticed  Slim  as  he  stepped  back  to  watch  Tiny. 
A  body  had  just  moved  over  the  white  marking  leaving 
the  line  vacant  directly  in  front  of  Tiny's  men.  The  crew 
stood  rigid  looking  upward  toward  the  welding-room. 

The  deafening  noise  of  thousands  of  men  under  a 
single  roof,  beating,  scraping  and  grinding  raw  metal 
was  suddenly  augmented  by  the  piercing  screech  of  an 
overhead  crane  which  slung  the  next  body  onto  the  line. 
The  body  was  hardly  free  of  the  crane  before  the  five  men, 
led  by  Tiny,  attacked  it  with  their  files.  Slim  watched 
the  big  Texan  maneuver  for  a  position  behind  the  moving 
steel  shell.  This  crew's  job  was  to  smooth  the  rough, 
welded  seams  on  the  rear  panel  of  the  bodies.  Tiny  was 
first  to  swing  into  action.  Legs  apart,  the  file  held  in  his 
two  massive  hands,  he  lunged  upon  the  narrow  strip  of 
crickly  steel.  A  deep  rasping  sound  rose  over  the  fac- 
tory's unending  rumble  as  his  file  bit  into  the  raw,  blue 
metal.  Tiny  hurled  himself  against  the  welt  of  steel 
again  and  another  sliver  of  metal  peeled  off.  His  face 
became  tense;  globules  of  sweat  dropped  from  his  fore- 
head onto  his  dirt-caked  arms.  The  lunging  movement 
fell  into  a  rhythm.  One,  two-lunge.  Quickly  the  huge 
rasp  under  Tiny's  mighty  arms  sliced  the  rough  weld  into 
a  sleek  glistening  seam.  As  the  body  moved  over  the 
white  marking  on  the  floor,  Tiny,  followed  by  the  other 
four  men,  withdrew  from  it  and  ran  to  cast  themselves 
upon  the  next  unit  already  in  place  behind  them.  As  the 
crew  backed  away  from  the  finished  body  another  gang 
crowded  in  to  take  their  places.  This  crew  carried  electric 
grinders  that  filled  the  air  with  showers  of  white  sparks 
as  their  whirling  emery  stones  slid  across  the  metal. 

Tiny  shoved  a  file  into  Slim's  hands  and  pushed  him 
into  petition  behind  the  waiting  body.  He  shouted  to 
him: 

"You  got  the  idea,  now.    Eat  'em  up." 

The  big  file  mocked  at  Slim.  It  slipped  over  the  brittle 

428 


George  H.  Corey 

surface  of  the  metal,  hardly  making  a  scratch.  The  arms 
of  the  other  men  in  the  crew  were  in  his  way  and  the  body 
moved  out  of  reach  before  he  could  swing  his  file  across 
the  weld.  Desperately  he  beat  his  file  against  the  seam, 
but  the  metal  remained  rough  and  blue.  Gently,  Tiny 
swept  him  to  one  side  just  as  the  body  approached  the 
white  marking  and  with  quick,  powerful  strokes  of  his 
file  ground  the  weld  even  and  shiny. 

Krakowski,  the  pig-eyed  Polish  foreman,  stood  along- 
side the  line  watching  the  new  man.  Now  and  then  he 
barked  a  command  that  was  drowned  in  the  thunder  of 
thousands  of  tools  beating  against  metal. 

Slim's  confused  nervousness  became  a  paralyzing 
fright  at  the  sight  of  the  Polish  foreman,  Krakowski. 
The  chunky  figure  of  the  boss  of  the  line  leaned  heavily 
against  a  packing  crate  abreast  the  metal  finisher's 
sector.  In  quick  glances  stolen  between  strokes  of  his 
file,  Slim's  eyes  took  in  the  Pole's  bald,  pumpkin-shaped 
head  set  upon  a  massive,  beef-red  neck.  Two  small,  mis- 
shapen ears  broke  its  symmetry.  His  eyes,  shoe-button 
shaped  and  set  wide  apart,  were  fixed  upon  the  moving 
forms  of  the  metal  finishers. 

The  fright  that  had  seized  Slim  fled  as  he  noted  that 
the  foreman's  attention  was  directed  toward  Tiny  and 
not  upon  himself.  The  Pole's  squatty  head  and  bulbous 
eyes  followed  the  rhythmic  motions  of  the  giant  metal 
finisher's  body.  His  heavy  lips  rolled  inward  tight  against 
his  teeth. 

The  superintendent  of  the  plant,  a  cat-faced  man  wear- 
ing thick,  sweat-smeared  glasses,  tapped  Krakowski's 
shoulder.  The  foreman  turned  quickly,  bowed  stiffly  and 
smiled.  The  superintendent's  attention  was  riveted  upon 
the  big  metal  finisher.  The  two  men  stood  beside  each 
other  watching  Tiny's  arms  move  machine-like  over  a 
rough  seam.  They  saw  the  crude  blue  weld  become  smooth 
and  bright  beneath  the  powerful  strokes  of  his  rasp.  The 

429 


#595  F.  O.  B. 

superintendent  cupped  his  hands  to  his  mouth  and 
shouted  in  a  voice  loud  enough  for  Slim,  at  the  end  of  the 
line,  to  hear. 

"Keep  an  eye  on  him,  Krakowski.  He's  got  the  mak- 
ings of  a  foreman." 

Tiny,  aware  now  that  he  was  being  watched,  expanded 
his  effort  with  savage  attacks  upon  the  brittle  metal. 

When  Slim  looked  up  from  his  task  next,  the  two  bosses 
had  moved  down  the  assembly  line  to  the  next  operation. 

The  metal  finishing  crew  sat  eating  their  lunches  in 
the  material  storage  yard  outside  the  plant.  In  grease- 
smudged  work  clothes  they  lolled  over  wooden  packing 
cases,  stuffing  lumps  of  bread  and  meat  into  their  mouths. 
Slim  emptied  his  mouth  enough  to  talk,  and  said  to  the 
group: 

"Honest  to  Crise,  Tiny,  I  heard  him.  The  boss  said  it 
loud  enough  for  me  to  hear,  'Keep  an  eye  on  him,  Kra- 
kowski. He's  got  the  makin's  of  a  foreman.'  I  heard  him 
say  it  to  the  foreman." 

"Dot's  no  more  tan  right,"  said  the  diabetic  German, 
Gus. 

"Eferyone  knows  Tiny's  the  bes'  goddamned  man  on 
the  line." 

A  slice  of  bread  crust  between  the  big  metal  finisher's 
lips  swerved  upward  as  his  mouth  tightened  into  a  grin. 
He  made  an  awkward  gesture  with  his  free  hand  to  pro- 
test his  embarrassment.  Steve,  the  taciturn  Greek,  an- 
other member  of  the  crew,  nodded  his  head  in  agreement. 
Joey,  a  youngster  whose  face  was  ancient  with  dissipation 
and  hard  work,  emptied  his  mouth  with  a  hurried  swallow 
and  said: 

"I  wouldn't  want  to  be  in  your  shoes,  Tiny.  Not  with 
that  bastard  Krakowski  for  a  foreman.  He's  goin'  to  ride 
your  tail  till  you're  plain  nuts.  You  just  watch." 

Gus  nodded  his  head  up  and  down  and  added: 

430 


George  H.  Corey 

"The  kid's  right,  Tiny.  Ffe  been  in  dis  place  a  lonk 
time  and  I  know  dot  Polack.  I  know  how  he  figures 
tinks." 

"He  can't  hurt  me  any,"  laughed  Tiny. 

"Don't  kit  yourself,  poy,"  replied  Gus.  "I  vas  here  ten 
years  ago  ven  dot  bastard  started  on  de  lines.  Efery  time 
I  sees  Krakowski  lookin'  at  you  I  tinks  of  ven  he  vas  a 
metal  finisher.  Dot  ain't  so  long  ago.  He  vas  like  a  bull,  so 
strong.  Jost  de  same  like  dis  boss  looks  at  you  vorkin'  so 
fine  now,  da  bosses  used  to  look  at  Krakowski.  In  tree 
years  dey  made  from  him  a  foreman." 

Tiny  listened  to  Gus  and  answered  slowly. 

"He  ain't  got  no  reason  to  ride  me.  I  ain't  goin'  to  get 
his  job.  He's  been  here  for  years." 

"Dot's  chust  de  trouble,  Tiny.  Vot  you  tink  dis  damned 
Polack  tink  vhen  de  boss  says  you  make  a  goot  foreman?" 

Tiny  shrugged  his  shoulders  and  answered  lazily. 

"I  don't  know  what  the  hell  he's  liable  to  think." 

"Youse  younk  mans  don't  know  vot  old  man  tink. 
Krakowski's  gettin'  old.  Maybe  he's  forty  already.  Dot's 
old  for  de  line.  How  many  foremans  hass  ve  got?  It's  de 
same  always.  Seven  foremans.  For  ten  years  ve  haff  al- 
ways seven  foremans.  Now  you  know  vot  dot  guy  tinks?" 
asked  Gus. 

"Gus  is  right,"  interrupted  Joey,  "the  Polack's  figurin* 
you're  after  his  job  from  now  on.  Who  wouldn't?  There 
ain't  no  signs  of  their  needin'  an  extra  foreman." 

"Dot's  right  Choey,"  replied  Gus.  "Krakowski's  old 
and  soft  now.  Vot  you  tink  happen  to  him  if  de  boss  say 
'back  on  de  line  you  go  Krakowski?'  Dot  vould  kill  him. 
You  know  vhere  is  Svenson,  now,  vot  vas  foreman  on 
number  six?  Ven  dey  put  dat  collich  poy  in  Svenson's  chob 
and  pushed  de  Svede  back  on  de  line  he  chumped  in  de 
river.  Vot  else  could  he  do?" 

The  crew  sat  silent  over  their  crumpled  sandwich  wrap- 
pings. The  German's  words  ended  the  conversation.  The 


#595  F.  O.  B. 

five  minute  warning  whistle  sent  them  scurrying  into  the 
factory. 

The  feud  between  Krakowski  and  Tiny  become  a  sub- 
ject of  guarded  conversation  among  the  men.  Each  day's 
gossip  brought  fresh  evidence  of  bitter  combat.  Only 
yesterday  Tiny  had  retaliated  to  the  Pole's  constant  heck- 
ling with  a  barbed  gesture.  As  the  power  was  shut  off  for 
the  noon  hour  and  Krakowski  walked  away  from  the  metal 
finishing  sector,  Tiny  broke  into  a  loud  whistle  to  the  tune 
of  "The  Old  Gray  Mare,  She  Ain't  What  She  Used  To  Be." 
The  workmen  on  the  opposite  side  took  up  the  tune.  The 
infuriated  Pole  flushed  crimson  and  shuffled  his  feet  clum- 
sily in  an  attempt  to  fall  out  of  step  with  the  beat  of  the 
refrain.  The  whistling  pursued  him  along  the  assembly 
line  for  a  hundred  yards. 

Krakowski  stood  beside  Tiny's  crew  scrutinizing  its 
work  for  flaws.  The  crew  was  working  smoothly  and  he 
found  nothing  with  which  to  torment  Tiny.  Slim  watched 
the  big  Texan  cast  quick  glances  at  the  Pole.  The  boss 
metal  finisher  knew  the  foreman  had  his  eyes  on  him  and 
he  swung  into  an  exhibition  demonstration.  The  back- 
breaking  task  of  pulling  a  huge  file  across  a  rough  seam 
kept  the  other  five  men  in  the  crew  tense  and  hurried. 
The  giant  Tiny  made  it  seem  like  an  effortless,  almost 
playful  task.  His  sinewy  arms  dragged  the  big  rasp  over 
the  steel  with  uncanny  ease,  the  sound  of  his  file  above  the 
others,  and  beat  a  steady  rhythm.  One,  two — one,  two,  the 
crisp  metal  seemed  to  turn  soft  under  Tiny's  great  arms. 

The  serpentine  procession  of  steel-gray  hulls  moved 
along  the  assembly  line  at  a  rate  of  fifty  units  an  hour.  At 
this  speed  the  metal  finishers  were  hard  pressed  for  time 
to  complete  their  tasks.  Krakowski  left  their  sector  and 
moved  to  a  place  beneath  the  overhead  crane.  He  shouted 
up  to  the  man  in  the  control  box  above  him.  As  the  man 
poked  his  head  through  a  little  window  in  the  box,  the 

432 


George  H.  Corey 

foreman  raised  two  fingers  on  his  right  hand.  The  crane 
operator  returned  the  signal  and  rolled  the  screeching  hoist 
back  to  the  welding-room.  Slim  saw  the  Pole  give  the 
signal.  He  nudged  Tiny  with  his  elbow  and  said: 

"He's  pushing  her  up  to  seventy  an  hour." 

Tiny  passed  the  word  through  the  crew.  They  cursed 
the  foreman  with  vicious  grunts  that  were  lost  in  the  deaf- 
ening noise.  The  raw  steel  shells  moved  faster,  the  noise 
grew  louder. 

Krakowski  walked  back  along  the  line  and  surveyed  the 
chaos  in  the  metal  finishing  crew.  Seventy  units  an  hour 
called  for  an  inhuman  expenditure  of  effort.  Slim,  a  com- 
petent workman  now,  wallowed  in  sweat  and  confusion. 
Furiously  he  swung  his  rasps  over  the  seam  as  he  battled 
to  clip  a  few  seconds  from  each  unit  of  work.  One,  two — 
one,  two — a  stroke  of  the  file  every  two  seconds;  twenty 
strokes  for  every  unit,  seventy  bodies  an  hour;  a  cent  and 
a  half  for  Slim,  a  cent  and  a  half  for  Tiny;  one,  two — one, 
two — thirty  strokes  every  minute,  one,  two — one,  two; 
fourteen  hundred  strokes  every  hour.  Economical  trans- 
portation at  $595  F.  O.  B.  the  factory. 

The  noon  whistle  blew  and  the  men  dropped  their  tools 
before  the  machinery  stopped.  Exhausted  from  the  mur- 
derous pace  of  the  past  hour  they  flopped  onto  the  material 
cases  flanking  the  line.  Tiny  and  Slim,  the  last  to  leave 
the  job,  looked  about  the  place  to  rest.  Slim  found  a  big, 
unopened  box  and  raised  himself  wearily  onto  it.  As  the 
big  metal  finisher  heaved  his  tired  frame  over  the  crate 
Krakowski  appeared  alongside  of  him. 

"I'm  goin'  to  have  to  put  two  more  men  in  your  crew, 
Cady,"  said  the  Pole. 

"What's  wrong  with  our  gang?"  asked  Tiny. 

"Can't  keep  up.  You  see  for  yourself,"  replied  Kra- 
kowski. 

"Give  us  a  while  to  get  used  to  the  new  speed,"  pleaded 
Tiny. 

433 


#595  F.  O.  B. 

"Adding  two  men  will  cut  hell  out  of  our  pay,"  added 
Slim. 

"Not  while  we're  running  at  seventy  an  hour  it  won't," 
said  Krakowski. 

"You  know  damned  well  we  won't  hold  that  rate  long," 
argued  Tiny.  "We'll  be  back  at  fifty  in  no  time.  You  know 
that." 

"That's  not  my  fault.  Two  new  men  will  report  to  you 
after  lunch.  You  break  them  in."  Krakowski  turned  and 
walked  away,  leaving  the  two  metal  finishers  sullen  with 
futility  and  anger. 

Warm  weather  came  and  the  metal  finishing  crew  sat 
about  the  material  yard  eating  lunch.  With  the  late  spring 
came  the  end  of  the  peak  production  period  and  work  on 
the  line  lagged.  There  were  still  eight  men  in  the  crew, 
though  the  amount  of  work  had  dwindled.  Slim  lay  on  a 
bale  of  cushion  padding  and  stuffed  the  remainder  of  a 
sandwich  into  his  mouth.  He  mopped  his  moist  head  and 
body  with  a  blackened  towel  wrapped  around  one  hand. 
With  eight  men  in  the  crew  instead  of  six  and  production 
down  the  lunch  hour  had  become  a  surly  lull  in  the  day's 
labor.  The  two  new  men  tried  vainly  to  overcome  the 
unfriendliness  with  which  the  rest  of  the  crew  had  ac- 
cepted them.  Tiny  defended  them  but  his  arguments 
angered  the  rest  of  the  crew.  Two  extra  men  cut  the  old 
crew's  pay  one  quarter. 

The  two  new  men  finished  their  lunches  and  invented  an 
excuse  to  move  off  from  the  old-timers.  As  they  passed  out 
of  sight  Tiny  spoke  up: 

"I  feel  sorry  for  those  poor  bastards.  They  can't  help 
being  shoved  into  our  crew." 

No  one  answered  the  crew  boss.  Slim  and  the  others 
knew  it  was  true  but  that  didn't  help  their  pay  checks. 
Gus,  the  German,  daubed  his  dirty  towel  over  the  endless 
stream  of  sweat  pouring  from  his  face  and  said: 

43* 


George  H.  Corey 

"It's  dot  goddamned  Krakowski's  fault.  Dis  business 
can't  go  on,  Tiny.  Efery  day  it's  gettin'  worser.  Last  veek 
ve  draw  how  much?" 

"A  lousy  nineteen  bucks,  that's  all,"  answered  Slim. 

The  German  continued:  "Und  for  J^ou,  Tiny,  it  is  vorser 
dan  for  us.  How  much  did  dey  dock  you  for  dose  files  vot 
vas  missing?" 

"Eight  smackers!"  said  Tiny  bitterly. 

"Eight  dollars!  Crise,  that's  half  your  pay,"  exclaimed 
Joey. 

Joey  and  the  Greek  rose  and  started  off  toward  the 
tobacco  shop  across  the  street. 

"Where  you  goin'?"  asked  Slim. 

"Healey,  that  Union  organizer's  givin'  a  speech  today 
across  the  street  in  the  lunch  room.  We're  goin'  to  listen  to 
him,"  said  Joey. 

Tiny  sat  across  from  Gus  and  Slim  and  watched  Joey 
and  the  Greek  pass  through  the  factory  gate.  When  they 
had  disappeared  from  sight  Tiny  leaned  over  close  to  the 
other  two  men  and  said: 

"Gus,  I'm  worried  about  the  crew.  Krakowski  keeps 
them  so  cussed  mad  all  the  time  that  they're  gettin' 
sloppy." 

"I've  seen  it  comin',"  said  Gus. 

"What  in  hell  can  I  do?  I  can't  fire  these  two  extra 
men.  And  even  with  the  line  runnin'  slow,  I  can't  do  every- 
one's work.  It's  gettin'  so  sloppy  the  inspectors  had  me  on 
the  carpet  this  mornin'." 

"Dot's  dangerous,  Tiny,"  warned  the  German.  "Ven 
de  vork  gets  sloppy  den  Krakowski  can  do  anythink  to  you 
and  it's  all  right  mit  de  boss.  Vonce  he  shows  de  boss  qual- 
ity is  missink  in  de  vork  den  he  can  make  from  you  a 
sveeper,  a  '  privy  man ' ;  or  maybe  shoff  you  into  de  paint 
boot." 

"What  would  you  do,  Gus?"  asked  Slim. 

"  Dot  I  couldn't  tell  you.  Dere  is  nottink  to  do  mit  a  guy 

435 


$595  F.  O.  B. 

like  Krakowski.  I'm  old  und  I  know  sometink  vot  goes  on 
in  de  Polack's  head.  Only  an  olt  man  can  'furshay'  dis 
tink.  De  Polack  is  olt.  He's  got  no  money,  vot  mit  eight 
kits  to  raise.  All  his  life  he  vorked  hard  for  de  bosses.  Vun 
day  he  hears  de  boss  say  you  make  a  goot  foreman.  In  dot 
tick  head  he  tinks — 'Vot  becomes  of  Krakowski  if  dey 
makes  dis  Tiny  a  foreman?'  Beck  to  de  line,  he  tinks  and 
den-7-out  on  de  street — or  de  river,  like  Svenson. 

"Maybe  Choey  and  de  Greek  got  de  right  idea,"  con- 
tinued Gus  rising  from  his  box.  "Maybe  Healey  and  his 
Union  beesiness  is  vot  ve  haf  to  get  first.  I  don't  know. 
Anyvay,  vy  don't  you  and  Slim  come  to  his  meetink  to- 
night? De  rest  of  de  crew  iss  goink." 

Slim  and  Tiny  sat  without  talking.  The  German  walked 
away  toward  the  assembly  building. 

"Maybe  that's  an  idea,"  said  Slim. 

"Won't  do  no  harm  findin'  out  what  it's  all  about," 
agreed  Tiny. 

"I'll  find  out  from  Joey  where  Healey's  holdin'  tonight's 
meetin',"  said  Slim  as  he  rose  to  his  feet.  The  warning 
whistle  blew  and  the  two  men  joined  the  stream  of  workers 
returning  to  the  assembly  lines. 

Tiny  and  Slim  took  their  seats  in  the  dirty  meeting  hall 
and  looked  around  for  the  familiar  faces  of  their  crew. 
About  fifty  men  were  gathered  in  the  room  when  Healey 
rose  to  the  platform  and  called  for  silence.  He  surveyed  his 
audience  for  a  moment  and  then  began  to  talk.  Piece  by 
piece  he  built  the  background  of  labor's  struggle  against 
capital.  Then  he  launched  into  his  immediate  cause. 

"And  how  long  are  you  sniveling  idiots  going  to  slave 
for  the  pittance  your  bloated  bosses  toss  you  each  week? 
How  much  longer  are  you  going  to  let  them  treat  you  like 
animals?  No,  not  even  animals  suffer  the  abuses  heaped 
upon  you. 

"What  animal  do  you  know  of  that  must  pull  a  'privy 

436 


George  H.  Corey 

cord'  so  that  some  other  slave  will  take  his  place  on  the 
line  while  he  rushes  to  the  toilet?  Does  any  animal  live  by 
a  system  of  work  so  inhuman  that  it  allows  not  even  time 
for  a  man  to  perform  a  fundamental  act  of  nature?  Name 
me  any  other  animal  than  your  poor  selves  who  is  so  mis- 
trusted, so  driven  and  persecuted  that  his  master  must 
make  him  perform  these  acts  of  nature  on  a  stage  set  in  the 
center  of  the  factory,  on  a  stage  so  that  his  hirelings  may 
count  the  seconds  he  is  away  from  his  work?" 

Short,  angry  laughs  told  Healey  he  was  on  the  right 
track.  He  continued: 

"In  the  yard  where  you  eat  lunch  are  piles  of  raw  mate- 
rial, men.  Close  your  eyes  and  think  of  it  for  a  moment. 
It's  covered  carefully  with  tarpaulins  and  guarded  day  and 
night.  The  wood  stacked  in  the  timber  yard  is  covered 
and  watched.  Even  the  great  piles  of  coal  are  protected 
from  the  wind  and  rain.  These  raw  materials  are  valuable; 
the  company  paid  out  money  for  them  and  they're  cared 
for. 

"But  you — you  laborers,  what  care  or  protection  do  you 
get?  When  that  pile  of  sheet  metal  can't  be  used  it  is 
soaked  in  grease  and  guarded.  But,  you,  when  the  factory 
is  through  with  you,  at  the  end  of  the  season,  what  hap- 
pens ?  Out  you  go.  Onto  the  street.  Like  a  mangy  dog,  an 
unwanted  whore.  Out  you  go  to  starve,  steal  or  die  until 
you  are  wanted  again. 

"We  don't  ask  for  much,  men.  We're  not  asking  for 
their  riches.  We  ask  for  as  much  care  as  they  give  the  raw 
materials;  the  sheet  metal,  the  steel  or  the  wood  they  use 
in  the  cars  we  build.  Is  that  too  much  to  ask  for?  To  be 
treated  as  well  as  a  piece  of  steel?" 

A  roar  of  approval  went  up  from  Healey's  audience. 

"What  ill-begotten  swine  are  you  that  your  bosses  must 
spy  on  you  like  thieves?  That  you  should  let  them  steal 
into  your  lockers  and  search  your  clothes?  That  you 
should  squirm  before  them  and  pray  not  to  be  fired  for 

437 


#595  F.  O.  B. 

their  findings  on  these  marauding,  illegal  entries  into  your 
personal  effects  ? 

"You  call  yourselves  men  and  yet  you  consent  to  these 
slave-driving  bosses'  denying  you  the  rights  your  fore- 
fathers fought  and  died  to  get.  The  right  to  unite  for  pro- 
tection from  starvation  and  death.  The  right  to  work  like 
human  beings  and  not  beasts." 

The  little  Irishman  darted  back  and  forth  across  the 
platform.  The  dull,  thirsty  minds  of  his  listeners  soaked 
up  his  words.  Tiny,  seated  next  to  Slim,  shifted  uneasily 
on  his  chair. 

Indignation  spread  slowly  through  the  crowd.  Healey 
halted  for  an  instant  and  drank  a  glass  of  water.  While  he 
paused,  the  smoke  of  discontentment  burst  into  flames  in 
scattered  sections  of  the  room. 

"That  means  the  foreman,  too,"  one  of  the  men 
yelled. 

"That's  right,  Krakowski,  and  the  others.  They're 
worse  than  the  bosses,"  yelled  another  workman. 

Healey  held  his  hands  above  his  head,  begging  for  si- 
lence. Desperately  he  pounded  a  table  with  a  water  glass 
and  shouted  for  order.  The  men  could  not  be  silenced. 
The  Union  organizer  let  the  outburst  run  its  course. 

In  a  few  minutes  it  subsided.  There  was  no  one  with 
whom  to  argue.  Quiet  established,  Healey  took  a  short 
cut  to  his  goal.  He  stepped  out  to  the  edge  of  the  platform 
and  called  out: 

"Who's  going  to  be  the  first  to  join,  then?  Who's  going 
to  get  card  number  one  and  fire  the  first  shot  in  the  battle 
against  the  slave-drivers?" 

This  challenge  threw  the  assemblage  into  an  angry 
demonstration.  The  clumsy  workmen  pushed  and  shoved 
one  another  to  reach  the  platform  firsL  In  the  disorder  of 
the  movement,  Tiny  and  Slim  slipped  out  of  the  hall 
unnoticed. 

They  walked  along  the  cool,  dark  street  in  silence  for 

438 


George  H.  Corey 

more  than  a  block.  Under  the  flickering  glare  of  a  street 
lamp  Slim  looked  up  at  the  big  metal  finisher  and  said: 

"Healey's  right,  Tiny.    We're  gettin'  rooked." 

"Sure  we  are,  but  we'd  lose  what  little  we're  not  gettin' 
rooked  out  of  if  we  signed  up  with  the  Union." 

"How  do  you  figure  that,  Tiny?" 

"Krakowski  and  the  bosses  knew  about  that  meetin'." 

"What  can  they  do?  Ain't  no  law  against  goin'  to  a 
meetin',"  Slim  argued. 

"No,  but  there  is  against  joinin'  the  Union.  The  com- 
pany had  half  a  dozen  stools  in  that  crowd.  The  poor  saps 
who  sign  up  will  be  out  on  their  tails  before  the  ink's  dry 
on  their  Union  Cards." 

"What  the  hell's  the  difference,  Tiny?  We're  not  gettin' 
anywhere  workin'." 

"No,  but  we're  eatin'  and  that's  somethin'.  No  sir, 
they  don't  get  my  job,  now!  Not  with  a  thousand  guys 
waitin'  at  that  factory  gate  every  mornin'.  Waitin'  for 
someone  to  get  fired." 

"Healey  told  us  yesterday  not  to  be  so  scared  of  that 
gang  waiting  at  the  gate  every  morning.  He  says  they 
ain't  workmen  at  all.  Just  a  bunch  of  bums  hired  by 
the  company  to  keep  us  scared  of  our  jobs,"  continued 
Slim. 

"Maybe  they  are  bums.  What's  the  difference?  It 
don't  take  a  hell  of  a  lot  of  brains  to  sling  a  file,  does  it? 
That's  the  trouble  with  the  Union.  I  know  we're  gettin' 
a  rooking,  same  as  I  know  the  Polack's  trying  to  get  my 
job,  but  what's  the  sense  of  fightin'?"  added  Tiny. 

"But  Healey  says  if  we  all  get  together  we've  got  a 
chance." 

"Healey's  talkin'  through  his  hat,  Slim.  What  chance 
have  we  got?  In  any  other  business  maybe  he's  right,  but 
in  the  auto  business  we've  got  no  chance.  The  company's 
got  the  jobs  broken  down  so  simple  that  they  can  take  the 
dumbest  cluck  in  the  world,  shove  a  tool  in  his  hand, 

439 


$595  F.  O.  B. 

throw  him  on  the  line  and  in  two  days  they've  got  an  autc 
worker." 

"But  if  we  all  struck  at  the  same  time,  we  might  tie 
them  up." 

"That's  more  of  the  Irishman's  pipe  dreams.  The  bosses 
ain't  sleepin'.  Look  at  the  green  men  they're  pourin'  into 
the  factory  every  day.  Where  are  they  comin'  from? 
Down  here  in  New  Orleans?  Not  on  your  life!  Georgia 
Crackers,  Hill-billys  from  up  North,  poor  bastards  that 
never  seen  more'n  a  dollar  in  their  lives.  Think  Healey 
can  get  those  guys  to  strike?" 

"Not  right  away,  maybe,"  argued  Slim. 

"Damned  right.  And  when  they  get  wise  to  themselves 
there'll  be  more  mountain  boys  to  shove  into  their 
jobs." 

"The  way  you  see  it  then,  there  ain't  nothin'  we  can 
do?" 

"Not  while  the  company's  holdin'  all  the  aces,  Slim. 
Only  thing  to  do  is  to  play  their  game  for  all  you  can  get 
out  of  it,  then  get  out.  I've  missed  more  than  one  meal 
tryin'  to  beat  the  bosses.  Twice  I've  been  busted  higher 
'an  a  kite  fightin'  for  Unions.  Once  in  Galveston  in  the 
dock  strike  and  once  in  the  mine  war  in  Georgia.  Besides, 
Slim,  maybe  I'll  get  a  break  at  the  plant.  Joinin'  the  Union 
won't  help  my  chances  of  gettin'  one." 

The  two  men  arrived  in  front  of  Tiny's  tottering,  two- 
storied  shack  and  turned  up  the  cinder  path  to  the  porch 
stairs.  As  Tiny  slipped  the  key  into  the  lock  Slim  lowered 
his  voice  to  a  whisper  and  said : 

"I  hope  you  get  a  break  from  the  bastards,  Tiny.  You 
got  it  comin'  to  you." 

The  Union  organizer's  work  took  its  toll  along  the  line. 
In  the  weeks  that  followed  Healey's  first  appearance  out- 
side the  factory  gates,  dozens  of  men  lost  their  jobs. 
Mysteriously,  but  quickly  the  names  on  the  Union  roster 

440 


George  H.  Corey 

had  found  their  way  into  the  company's  office.  Swiftly 
these  names  were  sliced  from  the  payroll. 

The  crew  leaders  and  foremen  sweated  and  raged  to 
break  in  the  army  of  green  men  hired  to  fill  the  vacant 
places.  Most  of  them  had  never  had  tools  in  their  hands 
before.  Yesterday  they  were  farmers,  banjo  players,  race 
track  touts,  or  vacuum  cleaner  salesmen.  Tomorrow  they 
would  be  skilled  auto  workers. 

In  crews  such  as  Tiny's  where  some  degree  of  skill  was 
needed,  the  green  men  brought  chaos  and  confusion.  The 
experienced  Greek  and  Gus  had  been  fired.  A  flabby- 
armed  piano  tuner  and  a  pot-bellied  bartender  struggled 
in  their  places.  Tiny  pleaded  for  replacements.  Krakowski 
shook  his  head  understandingly,  shrugged  his  shoulders 
and  did  nothing. 

The  great  snake  of  blue-gray  steel  slid  stealthily  onward. 
Tiny  tore  off  his  workshirt  and  pitched  into  the  work  with 
a  fiendish  burst  of  effort.  Slim  and  Monahan,  too,  battled 
to  cover  the  green  men's  work.  It  was  futile.  Farther  and 
farther  they  lagged,  holding  the  succeeding  crews  from 
their  work.  This  kept  up  all  day.  Every  half  hour  the 
metal  finishers  fell  so  far  behind  that  the  line  had  to  be 
halted.  During  one  of  the  long  halts  in  the  afternoon  the 
superintendent  stopped  beside  the  metal  finishers  and 
surveyed  the  confusion.  Krakowski  close  at  his  side,  ex- 
plained it  to  him. 

Half  an  hour  after  the  plant  had  closed  down  Tiny's 
crew  was  still  hard  at  it.  Groggy  with  fatigue,  they  com- 
pleted the  last  unit  of  the  schedule.  Tiny  and  Slim 
dropped  onto  a  bench  to  rest  before  washing  up.  They 
were  alone  but  a  few  seconds  before  Krakowski  appeared 
from  the  other  side  of  the  factory. 

"Finally  finished  up,  eh?"  said  the  Pole. 

"Yeh!  Finally! "grunted Tiny. 

"Bad  business,  this  holding  up  the  line,  Cady,"  con- 
tinued the  foreman.  "Costs  the  company  a  lot  of  money." 

441 


$595  F.  O.  B. 

"Why  the  hell  don't  you  give  me  some  men  who  can 
work?"  said  Tiny. 

"Those  two  birds  will  never  make  finishers,"  added 
Slim. 

"Wot  can  I  do,  Cady?  That's  all  they  hire;  green  men. 
Other  crews  get  along  with  green  men,"  the  Pole  coun- 
tered. 

"You  better  get  us  better  men  tomorrow,  Krakowski," 
threatened  Tiny. 

"That's  what  I  came  to  tell  you  about,"  the  foreman 
replied.  "The  superintendent  gave  me  orders  to  transfer 
you  and  Slim  to  the  paint  booth  tomorrow.  Both  of  you 
start  there  in  the  morning." 

Tiny  jumped  to  his  feet. 

"The  paint  booth?  Why  you  son ."  He  was 

shouting. 

"I've  checked  you  off  this  operation.  In  the  morning 
you'll  get  new  cards  from  the  boss  of  the  paint  booth." 

The  Pole  wheeled  about  and  walked  away. 

Muffled  beneath  grotesque  equipment  suggestive  of  deep 
sea  divers,  Slim  and  Tiny  walked  heavily  toward  the  paint 
spraying  booth.  The  thickly  padded,  paint-stiffened 
clothes  made  their  movements  robot-like.  Slim  followed 
Tiny  into  the  long  enclosure  where  the  finished  bodies 
received  the  widely  advertised  "Gorgeous  New  Colors" 
They  stopped  before  a  huge,  mirrored,  incandescent  bulb 
that  flooded  the  line  with  hot,  sharp  light.  Before  them, 
on  the  inert  line,  stood  a  body  heavily  pregnated  with  a 
dull  gray  priming  coat.  The  atmosphere  was  still  and  hot. 
A  dozen  men,  clad  in  the  same  thick  uniforms,  passed 
silently  along  the  line.  Tiny  and  Slim  greeted  them  with 
stiff,  upward  movements  of  their  arms. 

A  warning  bell  rang  and  the  two  men  set  up  their  equip- 
ment ready  for  work.  Slim  flicked  on  three  more  powerful 
flood  lamps  and  watched  Tiny  test  his  spray  gun.  The  big 

442 


George  H.  Corey 

Texan  wore  a  bulky  pair  of  coveralls,  the  legs  of  which  were 
tucked  into  the  tops  of  heavy  overshoes.  Stout  cords 
bound  the  open  ends  of  his  sleeves  tight  around  his  wrists. 
The  coarse  coveralls  encircled  his  neck  snugly,  making  the 
costume  airtight.  Over  Tiny's  forehead  was  drawn  a 
piece  of  rough  toweling  that  extended  back  over  his  head 
and  neck  in  the  manner  of  a  hood.  Its  ends  were  tucked 
under  his  close-fitting  collar.  Only  that  part  of  his  face 
between  chin  and  eyes  was  exposed  to  the  murderous  irri- 
tation of  the  paint-laden  atmosphere. 

As  the  line  began  to  move  Tiny  slipped  a  breathing- 
mask  over  his  mouth,  leaving  only  his  eyes  and  patches  of 
his  face  exposed.  Over  these  areas  he  rubbed  a  thick  layer 
of  vaseline.  Slim  adjusted  his  breathing  mask,  signaling 
Tiny  the  equipment  was  ready  and  stepped  back  from  the 
glare  of  the  floodlamps. 

The  Texan  grasped  the  spray  gun  in  his  gloved  hands 
and  pressed  the  control  trigger. 

A  hissing  explosion  burst  from  the  nozzle  and  a  fine 
spray  of  paint  rained  upon  the  smooth  body  panels.  Some 
of  the  paint  hit  its  goal,  covering  the  sleek,  gray  sheets  of 
metal  with  a  layer  of  bright  green  pigment.  Much  of  it, 
however,  missed  its  mark  and  shot  out  into  the  still  air. 
This  same  operation  was  taking  place  at  half  a  dozen 
places  down  the  line.  Across  from  Tiny,  on  the  other  side 
of  the  line  another  sprayer  was  covering  the  other  half  of 
the  body.  In  a  few  minutes  the  booth  was  choked  with  a 
dense  precipitation  of  multi-colored  paint.  Overhead  a 
whining  exhaust  fan  whisked  bits  of  the  contaminated  air 
out  of  the  shed.  Most  of  the  pigment  that  missed  its  goal 
settled  upon  the  dust  in  the  air  and  hung  suspended  in  the 
atmosphere. 

In  the  dazzling  light  the  pupils  of  Tiny's  eyes  contracted 
into  narrow  slits  and  floating  particles  of  pigment  settled 
on  his  vaseline-coated  face  mottling  it  with  the  colors  of 
the  spectrum.  Beneath  the  thickly  padded  worksuit  his 

443 


$595  F.  O.  B. 

body  pumped  a  flood  of  hot  sweat  that  sought  escape  from 
the  airtight  uniform  in  thick  streams  that  ran  down  his 
back  and  legs.  Slim  saw  brown  circular  stains  appear  at 
his  crotch  and  knees. 

Outside  on  the  line  Krakowski  was  having  trouble.  Tiny 
and  Slim  knew  it  was  serious  as  they  stood  idly  by  the 
motionless  conveyor  waiting  for  the  line  to  move.  Delays 
grew  more  frequent.  During  the  precious  noon  periods 
when,  for  an  hour,  they  were  free  of  the  booth,  workers 
on  the  line  outside  told  them  of  Krakowski's  problems. 
One  day  it  was  the  metal  finishing  crew.  Then  it  was  the 
grinders,  or  the  door  hangers  whose  work  lagged  until  the 
line  had  to  be  halted.  The  delays  were  costly  and  the 
management  hounded  the  befuddled  Pole.  Hour  after 
hour  Krakowski  rushed  up  and  down  the  line  shouting 
orders,  goading  the  men  to  greater  effort,  wresting  tools 
from  their  hands. 

Frantically  he  struggled  to  instill  order  and  speed.  Tiny 
and  Slim  knew  his  effort  was  futile.  The  experienced  men 
were  disgruntled  and  shirked  deliberately;  the  green  men, 
confused  and  frightened,  accomplished  little.  Patiently 
the  two  men  waited  for  the  superintendent  to  return  them 
to  the  metal  finishing  section. 

Tiny  and  Slim  were  back  slinging  their  files  again.  For 
three  weeks  the  big  metal  finisher  had  been  laboring  to 
keep  his  crew  abreast  the  mounting  work.  Tiny's  return 
to  the  line  as  boss  metal  finisher  became  a  personal  victory 
to  each  of  the  old-timers  on  the  line — a  victory  of  the  men 
over  the  bosses.  They  speeded  up  their  work  and  helped 
the  green  men.  Delays  became  infrequent  and  the  line 
approached  its  normal  swift  pace. 

They  were  in  production  on  a  new  model  car.  "Amaz- 
ingly New"  Slim  read  in  the  newspaper  advertisements. 
"The  Car  That  Has  Revolutionized  Motoring"  at  $595 
F.  O.  B.  the  factory.  The  finishers'  jobs  hadn't  changed, 

444 


George  H.  Corey 

though.  The  welded  seams  on  the  rear  panels  were  a  little 
wider  and  took  longer  to  trim  smooth. 

Slim  pulled  the  privy  cord  and  waited  for  a  relief  man 
to  take  his  place  at  the  line.  In  a  few  minutes  he  appeared 
and  Slim  handed  him  his  file.  Then  he  started  off  in  the 
direction  of  the  toilet  in  the  center  of  the  plant.  He 
wanted  to  smoke  a  cigarette  and  there  was  only  one  safe 
place  to  do  it.  Halfway  to  the  overhead  toilet  Slim 
doubled  back  on  his  trail,  cut  across  two  assembly  lines 
and  headed  toward  the  superintendent's  office.  When  the 
superintendent's  office  had  been  built  a  narrow  space  had 
been  left  between  it  and  the  end  of  the  factory.  Slim 
looked  carefully  to  see  that  no  one  was  watching  and 
slipped  into  the  open  end  of  the  hiding  place.  Stealthily  he 
opened  a  fresh  pack  and  lit  up.  He  inhaled  a  thick  mouth- 
ful of  smoke  and  felt  it  flood  his  lungs.  As  he  exhaled  he 
watched  the  blue  spirals  of  smoke  curl  upward  toward  the 
roof.  The  place  was  doubly  safe  because  the  superintend- 
ent's office  was  roofless  and  he  smoked  continuously.  Flat 
on  his  back,  Slim  lay  on  the  concrete  floor,  cigarette  in  his 
hand.  He  listened  to  the  noise  of  voices  in  the  superin- 
tendent's office.  From  the  other  side  of  the  open-topped 
office  Slim  heard  a  strange  voice  say: 

"We  can't  have  another  series  of  delays  again.  De- 
troit's raising  hell  with  me  already." 

Slim  held  his  cigarette  motionless  as  he  listened  to  the 
voice  of  the  superintendent  reply: 

"No  need  to  worry,  Chief.  I  think  I've  got  it  licked." 

"What  was  it?"  asked  the  Chief. 

"One  of  my  foremen  fell  down  on  the  job.  He's  getting 
old  and  I  guess  I've  got  to  ease  him  out,"  continued  the 
superintendent. 

Slim  stabbed  the  lighted  end  of  his  butt  onto  the  con- 
crete and  listened  eagerly. 

"I  hope  that  solves  it.  Are  you  going  to  have  to  send  to 
Detroit  for  a  new  foreman?" 

445 


#595  F.  O.  B. 

"I  don't  think  so,  Chief.  IVe  got  a  big  metal  finisher 
here  who's  a  demon  for  work.  I'm  checking  up  on  him  now. 
If  he's  clear  of  the  Union  I'm  going  to  give  him  a  try  at 
the  job." 

Swiftly  and  noiselessly  Slim  rose  and  slipped  out  of  the 
fissure  between  the  office  and  the  factory  wall.  He  sought 
the  shortest  route  back  to  the  line.  He  could  still  hear  the 
bosses  talking  as  he  approached  the  open  space  in  front  of 
the  offices.  His  eyes  swept  the  clearing  as  he  prepared  to 
step  out  into  the  open  space.  Suddenly  he  stopped  short 
and  stepped  back.  Leaning  against  a  pillar,  a  few  feet  in 
front  of  the  boss'  office  Slim  saw  Krakowski.  His  thick 
neck  was  rigid  and  his  hands  shuffled  a  batch  of  time  cards 
clumsily. 

The  conversation  inside  ended  and  the  Pole  walked 
hurriedly  toward  the  opposite  end  of  the  factory.  Slim 
waited  until  he  was  out  of  sight,  then  he  started  back  to 
the  crew. 

For  an  hour  the  line  had  been  moving  at  a  stiff  pace. 
The  metal  finishing  crew  was  working  feverishly.  Tiny 
held  his  hot  file  between  handfuls  of  cotton  waste.  A 
warning  nudge  in  his  ribs  from  a  workman  in  the  next 
crew  told  him  the  boss  was  coming.  Silent  elbows  prodded 
into  ribs  telegraphed  the  news  from  one  end  of  the  plant 
to  the  other.  Tiny  nudged  Slim  and  he  in  turn  put  the 
man  next  to  him  on  guard. 

Slim  looked  up  and  saw  Krakowski's  chunky  form  weav- 
ing through  clumps  of  workmen  a  hundred  feet  ahead  of 
him.  Deftly  the  foreman  slipped  through  the  knots  of 
men.  A  few  feet  ahead  of  the  metal  finishers  he  stopped 
and  tapped  a  stubby  finger  on  the  shoulder  of  a  man  in  the 
next  crew.  The  lazy  Georgian  grinder  looked  up  at  the 
foreman  and  smiled.  He  was  a  well  known  character  in 
the  auto  plant  whose  defiance  of  the  company's  stringent 
rules  against  loafing  had  won  him  a  reputation  for  brav- 
ery. At  least  twice  a  day  he  was  to  be  found  seated  on 

446 


George  H.  Corey 

the  debris-littered  floor  of  the  half-exposed  toilet,  the 
sport  sheet  of  the  Times-Picayune  on  his  knee  and  his 
back  resting  against  the  cool,  circular  tile  of  the  water 
closet. 

The  big  grinder  looked  up  at  Krakowski  and  raised  his 
ear  to  the  Pole's  moving  lips.  The  foreman  turned  away 
as  the  grinder  dropped  his  rasp  and  reached  for  a  piece  of 
cotton  waste. 

Tiny  had  just  completed  the  seam  in  front  of  him  as 
Krakowski's  hand  touched  his  wrist.  The  big  metal  fin- 
isher looked  up  and  the  foreman  leaned  over  and  spoke 
to  him.  Slim's  elbow,  pressed  quickly  into  the  ribs  of  a 
man  in  the  next  crew,  started  the  telegraphic  nudge  toward 
the  other  end  of  the  line.  Krakowski  moved  off  in  the  di- 
rection of  the  superintendent's  office.  Tiny  and  the  grinder 
followed  close  behind  him.  Two  relief  men  answered  the 
signal  on  the  privy  cord.  They  took  the  two  vacated 
places. 

It  was  almost  time  to  knock  off  for  the  day  and  Tiny 
hadn't  returned.  Anxiously  the  metal  finishers  watched 
for  him.  Slim  tried  to  dissipate  his  concern  by  thinking  of 
a  lot  of  good  things  that  might  have  happened.  Maybe 
they  had  made  Tiny  an  inspector  or  a  foreman.  The 
peculiarly  fixed  squint  in  the  Pole's  eyes  when  he  led  Tiny 
away  an  hour  before  made  these  pleasantries  hard  to 
believe.  A  grinder  in  the  crew  ahead  pressed  his  flexed 
arm  into  Slim's  back.  He  raised  his  eyes,  but  could  not 
see  Tiny.  Between  strokes  of  his  file  he  darted  quick 
glances  in  the  direction  of  the  other  end  of  the  factory.  At 
last  the  familiar  hulk  came  into  sight. 

Tiny  moved  rapidly  toward  his  crew.  Abreast  them  he 
reached  out,  grabbed  the  relief  man's  arm  and  snatched 
the  file  from  the  surprised  worker's  hands.  Tiny's  eyes 
seemed  to  be  focused  on  some  far-off  object.  His  smile 
was  gone  and  the  lean  muscles  of  his  face  were  drawn  un- 
comfortably snug  over  their  framework.  Lips  pressed 

447 


$595  F.  O.  B. 

tight  against  teeth  and  strangely  expressionless  eyes  for- 
bade questioning.  Slim  tried  to  catch  his  eye.  The  crew 
went  on  with  its  work. 

Tiny  snatched  up  a  piece  of  cord  and  broke  it  in  two. 
He  tied  one  piece  around  the  wooden  handle  of  his  file, 
placed  it  on  the  edge  of  a  bench  at  his  side  and  then 
slipped  out  of  his  overalls.  Slim  looked  at  the  clock  on  the 
wall,  but  it  was  still  a  half  hour  before  quitting  time.  The 
big  metal  finisher  picked  up  the  file  again,  took  a  deep 
breath  and  dropped  the  rasp  between  his  pants  and  his 
belly.  Then  he  tied  the  loose  end  of  string  on  the  file 
handle  to  his  pants  belt.  The  heavy  end  of  the  rasp 
slid  down  his  right  trouser  leg.  With  the  other  piece  of 
string  he  fastened  the  dangling  end  of  the  file  tight 
against  his  leg.  The  rest  of  the  crew  looked  at  one  an- 
other with  bewilderment.  Tiny  shook  his  leg,  made  cer- 
tain the  file  was  secure,  and  strode  off  toward  the  locker 
room. 

A  few  minutes  before  quitting  time  the  Georgian  grinder 
from  the  next  crew  returned  and  took  off  his  overalls. 
Slowly  he  rolled  them  into  a  bundle.  The  five  o'clock 
whistle  blew  and  Slim  hastened  over  to  him. 

"What  happened?" 

"Got  fired,"  drawled  the  grinder. 

"Not  Tiny,  too?" 

"Sure,  canned  both  of  us." 

"I  don't  believe  it.    What  happened?"  continued  Slim. 

"Honest  to  Crise,  Slim,  we  got  fired." 

"What  for?" 

"Union  cards.  Both  of  us." 

"You're  nuts.  Tiny  didn't  belong  to  the  Union." 

"I  know  it.  They  framed  the  poor  bastard." 

"Who  framed  him?"  asked  Slim. 

"Krakowski,"  replied  the  Grinder.  "He  knew  they  were 
goin'  through  the  lockers  this  mornin'  an'  he  planted  a 
green  card  in  Tiny's  coat  pocket.  Tiny's  name  was  signed 

448 


George  H.  Corey 

on  it  and  it  was  stamped  paid  with  the  Union  seal.  I  seen 
it  up  in  front,  just  now." 

"But  Tiny  could  prove  he  didn't  belong.  We  all  know 
he  didn't." 

"Not  a  chance.  Krakowski  had  Healey  up  there  and  he 
swore  Tiny  was  a  member." 

"The  dirty  bastard,"  mumbled  Slim.  "What  did  Tiny 
say?" 

"After  Healey  spoke  up,  he  didn't  say  nothin'.  He  just 
stood  there  kind  of  dumb-like." 

A  sudden  kick  against  the  leg  of  Slim's  chair  bolted  the 
parade  of  scenes  from  his  mind.  He  looked  up  and  saw  a 
dirty  apron  drawn  tight  around  a  bartender's  distended 
belly. 

"Whatcha  goin'  to  have,  kid?  Can't  sit  here  all  day  on 
a  coupl'a  shots." 

"Nothin'  more,  thanks,"  Slim  answered.  "I'm  leaving 
now." 

He  rose  and  walked  quietly  over  the  sawdust-covered 
floor  to  the  street.  Aimlessly  he  drifted  toward  Canal 
Street.  At  the  corner  of  Tehoupatoulas,  a  kid  selling  news- 
papers yelled  and  waved  a  bundle  of  papers.  Absently, 
Slim  fished  a  nickel  out  of  his  pants  pocket  and  dropped  it 
into  the  outstretched  black  hand. 

Across  the  street  the  benches  in  front  of  the  station  were 
empty.  Slim  crossed  the  street,  chose  a  dry  seat  and  slid 
onto  it.  Listlessly  he  opened  the  damp  newspaper  on  his 
lap,  flipped  it  right-side-up  and  started  to  read.  In 
huge  letters  sprawled  across  the  sheet's  eight  columns  he 
spelled  out: 

LABOR  RED  SLAYS  AUTO  FOREMAN 

A  three-column  picture  of  Tiny  filled  the  center  of  the 
page.  Under  the  picture  was  a  single  word  caption — 

449 


#595  F.  O.  B. 

WANTED.  A  two-column  bulletin  at  the  right  of  the  page  was 
headed  with: 

DISGRUNTLED  RED  LABOR  AGITATOR 

SLAYS  BOSS  ON  EVE  OF  DISMISSAL 
POLICE  COMB  CITY  FOR  AUTO  WORKER 

Special — The  body  of  Otto  Krakowski,  a  foreman  in  the 
.  River  Auto  Plant,  was  found  early  this  morning  in  a 
passageway  at  the  side  of  his  home  at  2348  Ponce  de 
Leon  Avenue.  Almost  simultaneously  a  police  net 
was  thrown  over  New  Orleans  and  surrounding  par- 
ishes to  apprehend  the  man  believed  to  be  his  assail- 
ant, Tiny  Cady,  30,  discharged  worker  formerly  em- 
ployed in  the  River  Auto  Plant.  Krakowski's  body 
was  discovered  just  before  dawn  this  morning  by 
Joseph  Kline,  a  milkman.  The  victim's  head  had  been 
brutally  battered  with  a  huge  file  which  has  already 
been  identified  by  two  of  Cady's  fellow  employees 
as  one  used  by  the  former  worker  at  the  auto  plant. 
A  careful  check-up  by  the  police  of  the  Eighth  Pre- 
cinct Station  revealed  that  Cady  had  stolen  the  file 
following  his  discharge  late  yesterday. 

Factory  officials  name  Cady  as  a  dangerous  Red 
labor  agitator  who  has  been  responsible  for  much  of 
the  Union  trouble  experienced  recently  at  the  River 
plant.  Police  were  told  by  factory  officials  of  Cady's 
discharge  yesterday,  following  their  discovery  of  a 
quantity  of  Communistic  literature  in  his  possession. 
The  missing  labor  Red  was  also  prominent  in  the 
illicitly  organized  labor  union  discovered  a  short  time 
ago  at  the  auto  plant.  Chief  of  Police  Davis  is  con- 
fident he  will  have  the  man  suspected  of  Krakowski's 
murder  in  custody  before  nightfall.  A  police  cordon 
has  been  thrown  around  all  exits  from  the  city  and  a 
careful  guard  is  being  kept  at  the  suspected  man's 
home  at  ^l^l^  Bottom  Street.  Chief  Davis  believes 

450 


George  H.  Corey 

Cady's  arrest  will  solve  one  of  the  most  brutal  mur- 
ders this  city  has  experienced  in  many  years. 

Factory  officials  are  lending  every  aid  to  the  police 
in  their  effort  to  locate  Cady  who  is  described  as  a 
powerful  man,  six  feet,  three  inches  in  height.  Accord- 
ing to  information  furnished  the  police  this  morning, 
Cady  harbored  a  grudge  against  his  former  foreman, 
Krakowski,  for  the  latter's  having  brought  to  light 
the  Communistic  labor  activities  which  resulted  in  his 
discharge  from  the  factory. 


4SI 


RENDEZVOUS 

by 
Mary  Heaton  Vorse 


MARY  HEATON  VORSE  has  recently  published  in  A  Foot- 
note to  Folly  her  reminiscences  of  many  years  of  activity  in 
literary  and  radical  circles,  including  experiences  in  Europe 
during  and  after  the  Great  War  and  in  the  United  States 
during  certain  famous  strikes  and  labor  trials.  She  calls 
the  book  "not  a  biography"  but  "a  picture  of  the  world  as  I 
saw  it  during  an  important  moment  of  history;  a  record  of 
what  happened  to  the  little  people  and  their  children  in  war 
time  and  peace"  Much  of  her  childhood  was  spent  in  the 
college  town  of  Amherst,  where,  so  far  as  labor  unions  and 
industrial  struggles  were  concerned,  "we  might  have  been 
the  original  dwellers  in  the  garden  of  Eden.  .  .  .  But  if  in 
Amherst  we  knew  nothing  about  the  conditions  under  which 
cloth  was  woven  or  coal  mined  or  steel  made,  yet  it  was  in 
the  quiet  of  Amherst  that  my  mind  was  prepared  for 
thought.  .  .  .  My  early  training  taught  me  not  to  fear  the 
'pain  of  a  new  idea.'"  Mrs.  Vorse*s  stories  and  articles 
have  appeared  in  many  magazines,  such  as  Harper's  and 
Story  and  The  Woman's  Home  Companion;  her  novel, 
Strike,  is  based  on  the  Gastonia  textile  strike. 


RENDEZVOUS 

A  they  drove  along  in  the  spring  sunshine,  Sidney 
Moore  couldn't  get  out  of  his  mind  that  because 
they  had  come,  a  young  New  York  boy  named 
Harry  Grimm  lay  dying  now  in  a  hospital  fifty  miles  away. 

Harry  Grimm  had  come  across  the  mountain  to  meet 
the  New  York  men  who  were  bringing  food  to  the  miners. 
Deputies  had  shot  him.  He  was  a  "foreigner."  He  was 
organizing  the  miners.  The  deputies  shot  him  because 
of  this.  He  was  going  over  the  mountain  to  meet  the 
other  "foreigners"  bringing  in  the  food  truck.  The  miners 
had  telephoned  the  news  just  before  they  started  from 
Knoxville. 

The  road  wound  around  the  mountain.  From  where 
he  was,  Sidney  could  see  all  four  cars  of  their  little  caravan, 
and,  lagging  behind,  the  food  truck.  It  was  a  queer  busi- 
ness, he  thought,  their  being  there  at  all.  They'd  come,  a 
dozen  of  them,  to  bring  food  to  striking  miners;  it  was  a 
sort  of  test. 

Miners  had  been  murdered  by  deputies  in  two  counties 
in  the  past  months.  Miners  had  been  taken  from  their 
homes  and  from  jails,  beaten,  and  sent  naked  across  the 
mountains.  Soup  kitchens  had  been  blown  up,  and  the 
relief  workers'  car  dynamited.  The  miners'  food  trucks 
had  been  blockaded.  Relief  workers  had  been  arrested 
on  the  charge  of  criminal  syndicalism.  Reporters,  even, 
had  been  shot  at  and  wounded.  .  .  . 

Sidney  could  hear  the  two  men  in  back — Quinn,  an 
editor  of  a  magazine,  and  a  liberal  writer  named  Sander- 
son— talking  about  holding  meetings  with  the  miners. 
They  were  driving  directly  toward  the  threat  which  the 

Reprinted  from  Story,  December  1933,  by  permission  of  the  editors  and  of  the 
author. 

455 


Rendezvous 

mayor  of  Mapleton  had  sent  them.  He  had  telegraphed 
them  that  neither  "they  nor  their  ilk  were  wanted  around 
here." 

In  spite  of  this  threat,  these  innocent  men  were  babbling 
about  holding  meetings  and  visiting  mining  camps.  Sidney 
felt  as  if  he  possessed  some  dark  truth  that  he  could  not 
communicate  to  the  others.  They  were  innocent.  They 
did  not  know  the  South.  There  would  be  no  meetings. 
No  need  to  test  constitutional  rights:  there  were  none.  .  .  . 
What  was  it  the  cashier  in  the  coffee  shop  in  Knoxville 
had  asked  him: 

"What  nationality  are  these  people?  I  hear  they're 
going  up  into  the  mountains  in  Kentucky,  to  set  up  some 
new  kind  of  government."  He  looked  at  the  other  men. 
Quinn  was  sandy  and  compact,  with  an  open  clear-cut 
countenance  and  small,  New  England  features.  Sanderson 
had  pronounced  dark  features;  although  young,  he  was 
inclined  to  be  heavy.  People  often  took  Sidney  for  a 
square-head.  He  reflected  that  they  all  looked  "foreign" — 
different  from  the  natives  of  the  South. 

The  road  wound  past  blackened  shacks  without  chim- 
neys. Up  a  creek  a  cluster  of  these  shacks  was  hanging 
on  the  cliff  as  by  an  eyelash.  A  mining  camp.  These 
mining  camps,  Sidney  thought,  were  the  most  desolate 
habitations  in  the  world. 

"What  do  you  think's  going  to  happen,  Moore?"  Quinn 
asked,  leaning  forward. 

"I  think  anything  might,"  Sidney  answered. 

"They  won't  dare  to  do  anything  to  us,  though,"  said 
Quinn.  Sidney  knew  that  Quinn  was  thinking:  "We're 
too  distinguished  a  crowd,  too  well  known;  they  wouldn't 
dare  do  anything  to  us!" 

"I  don't  see  why  you  think  they'll  feel  any  differently 
toward  us  than  they  did  toward  Harry  Grimm,"  said 
Sidney.  "He  was  coming  to  meet  us — so  in  a  roundabout 
way  we're  responsible  for  his  getting  shot.  .  .  ." 

456 


Mary  Heaton  Vorse 

The  road  made  a  swift  turn.  A  new  vista  opened.  They 
were  going  through  a  series  of  narrow  valleys  with  swift, 
gay  creeks  running  down  them.  High  granite  mountains 
rose  abruptly  from  the  creek  bed.  They  were  beautifully 
wooded,  and  already  touched  with  spring  in  mid-February. 
The  maples  were  in  red  bloom.  The  road  did  not  run 
straight  for  twenty  yards.  Sidney  had  a  feeling,  as  they 
drove  swiftly  through  the  brilliant  spring  morning,  that 
they  were  making  straight  for  the  hate  that  had  shot 
Harry  Grimm  at  daybreak. 

"What  can  we  do?  Why  have  we  come?  To  bring 
food;  to  advertise  what  is  happening  in  this  remote  place. 
Why  have  I  come?"  While  he  thought  this,  the  white 
road  slipped  under  their  wheels.  On  one  side  of  them 
the  mountains  rose  steeply  above;  and  below,  on  the 
other,  were  fields  of  yellow-ochre  earth  with  bright  green 
grass  sprouting. 

"We'll  be  passing  into  Kentucky  in  a  minute,"  the 
taxi-driver  remarked.  "I  wonder  if  they'll  stop  us  at  the 
border?"  They  all  felt  a  little  apprehensive.  There  was 
a  mounting  feeling  of  insecurity.  No  one  felt  quite  smug. 
Each  one  felt  uncertain  and  a  little  ridiculous. 

Two  cars  were  drawn  up  at  the  state  line.  It  was  an 
imaginary  line,  and  yet,  thought  Sidney,  dividing  one 
state  of  mind  from  another  state  of  mind.  .  .  .  The 
little  procession  of  cars  had  been  dispersed,  and  the 
food  truck  was  now  far  behind.  Two  of  their  cars  had 
stopped  at  the  Kentucky  line.  Sidney  felt  a  growing  ex- 
citement. 

"Likely  deputies  stopped  them,"  said  Sanderson.  But 
there  were  no  deputies,  the  way  was  open.  Sidney  felt 
a  light  sense  of  disappointment.  The  other  cars  were 
merely  waiting  for  the  rest  to  come  up.  Newman,  their 
spokesman,  called  out  from  his  roadster — 

"We  think  four  of  us  had  better  go  ahead  and  see  the 
mayor  first  and  find  out  what  he'll  let  us  do." 

457 


Rendezvou  s 

"Find  out  what  he  won't  let  us  do,"  thought  Sidney. 
The  band  of  crusaders  seemed  to  him  absurd.  He  reflected 
that  they  would  be  grotesque,  but  for  the  tragedy  of 
Harry  Grimm.  Murder  had  been  committed  because  of 
them.  Death  had  made  them  authentic;  it  made  their 
mission  dangerous,  gave  them  a  burnish  of  heroism. 

A  platform  from  which  one  might  see  far  distant  views 
had  been  cut  out  in  the  mountain  shelf.  A  large  placard 
was  placed  there,  which  said  that  Daniel  Boone  had  first 
passed  through  this  place  in  search  of  freedom  and  lib- 
erty. The  little  procession  stopped  to  look  at  the  view. 
They  read  with  cynicism  the  placard  about  Daniel  Boone 
and  liberty;  then  they  went  on  their  way  unmolested. 

At  Centreville  they  stopped  to  wait  for  the  food  truck 
to  catch  up,  so  that  they  could  convoy  it  into  Mapleton. 
It  was  a  thrifty  little  town  with  long,  wide  streets  shaded 
with  trees.  A  truck  full  of  clothes  was  to  have  joined 
them  there.  It  had  been  sent  by  the  workers  of  a  mid- 
Western  city.  Their  taxicab  driver,  who  had  been  a  miner 
and  who  was  in  sympathy  with  them,  reported : 

"That  truck's  been  taken  down  a  side  road  somewhere 
and  overturned.  They  say  the  truck  driver  is  shot,  but 
he  ain't  hurt  bad." 

The  little  crowd  of  Northerners  looked  at  each  other. 
The  invisible  menace  was  taking  form.  They  had  seen 
nothing,  no  one  had  stopped  them  or  hindered  them  on 
their  way — yet.  Still  Harry  Grimm  lay  dying,  shot  as 
he  was  coming  to  meet  them;  and  now  here  was  an  un- 
known man — a  man  whose  name  they  didn't  even  know, 
a  truck  driver  from  a  mid-Western  city,  probably  paid 
to  drive  the  truck — shot,  possibly  killed,  by  the  invisible 
enemy. 

Sidney  looked  at  the  others.  "I  wonder  they  don't 
see  what  we're  up  against.  I  wonder  they  don't  know  it's 
white  terror."  They  were  still  innocent;  they  were  indig- 
nant about  the  truck. 

458 


Mary  Heaton  Vorse 

On  the  road  ahead  of  them  was  a  blot  of  blue.  Hundreds 
of  miners  in  trucks  and  on  foot,  waiting  to  greet  them. 
Another  group  stood  behind  the  miners — armed  deputies 
and  the  chief  of  police.  They  stopped  the  trucks,  they 
stopped  the  cars.  Sidney  had  a  sense  of  fatality,  of  some- 
thing happening  that  he  had  been  waiting  for.  But  there 
was,  as  yet,  no  relief  in  its  having  happened. 

They  got  out  of  their  cars,  the  food  truck  between  the 
deputies  and  the  miners.  The  Miners'  Union  had  a  store- 
house in  Mapleton.  Quinn  talked  to  the  chief  of  police. 

"Why  can't  we  store  our  food  in  the  storehouse?"  he 
asked,  reasonably.  The  chief  looked  at  him,  a  little  puz- 
zled. Quinn  was  a  pleasant-spoken  fellow. 

"It's  against  orders,"  he  said.  "You  drive  right  through 
the  town.  You  can't  stop  in  Mapleton.  There  ain't  going 
to  be  no  meetings."  Deputies  mounted  the  cars  and 
deputies  swarmed  on  the  food  trucks. 

Mapleton  was  built  around  a  courthouse  and  a  square. 
It  was  the  county  seat.  In  the  square  were  hundreds  of 
miners.  They  made  clots  of  blue  as  they  drifted  around 
the  square,  as  they  formed  uneasy  groups  together.  A 
great  many  deputies  ostentatiously  armed  were  strutting 
around.  Up  in  the  cupola  of  the  courthouse  there  was  a 
nest  of  machine-guns.  The  Northerners  got  out  of  their 
cars.  Sanderson  said  to  Sidney: 

"I  haven't  seen  so  many  guns  since  Chateau-Thierry! 
I  didn't  know  this  was  a  war  that  we  were  coming  to! 
I  thought  we  were  coming  just  to  hold  a  meeting  with  the 
miners,  and  bring  them  some  food." 

"Well,  you're  in  a  war  all  right,"  said  Sidney.  "This 
is  the  class  war.  We've  walked  right  into  it."  That  was 
what  had  happened.  They  had  stumbled  into  the  class 
war.  That  was  why  there  were  machine-guns  in  the  court- 
house and  why  deputies  bristled  with  guns.  "They've 
found  out — partly,"  thought  Sidney.  He  had  seen  a 
Southern  mob  in  a  killing  mood.  .  .  .  Now  everything 

459 


Rendezvous 

was  quiet,  waiting.  He  wondered  if  they  didn't  know  yet 
that  the  hate  which  had  killed  Harry  Grimm  might 
attack  them. 

The  little  band  divided.  Part  of  them  went  down  with 
the  food  trucks  to  the  outskirts  of  the  town.  Sidney  went 
over  to  the  hotel,  where  the  advance  guard  were  meeting 
with  the  mayor.  Around  the  room  sat  the  principal  men 
of  the  town  and  the  mayor,  who  was  a  veterinary.  They 
were  big  rangy  men,  men  of  consequence  in  their  com- 
munity, men  proud  of  themselves  and  sure  of  themselves. 
They  knew  they  were  right.  They  were  coal  operators 
here,  the  attorney  of  the  Rocky  Creek  Mining  Company. 
A  benevolent  looking  Baptist  pastor  sat  to  one  side.  The 
veterinary  mayor  was  a  small,  unimpressive  looking 
person. 

Sidney  looked  around  swiftly.  A  peculiar  feeling — not 
of  apprehension  and  not  of  fear,  but  rather  like  a  knowl- 
edge of  evil — came  over  him.  There  is  a  murderous  qual- 
ity about  white  terror.  White  terror  was  what  emanated 
from  these  men  who  had  assembled  to  meet  them  at  the 
Mapleton  Hotel. 

The  lounge  was  a  comfortable  room  of  good  proportions, 
and  it  had  an  open  fire.  The  four  men  comprising  the 
committee  were  at  one  end.  Twenty  men  faced  them. 
Two  civilizations  aligned  against  each  other.  The  North- 
erners looked  small  and  young  in  the  face  of  their  oppo- 
nents, who  were  keeping  up  a  tone  of  insolent  and  polite 
ceremony.  Like  the  ceremony  of  wolf  dogs  who  walk 
around  and  around  with  their  hackles  up.  The  elaborate 
courtesy  was  just  cracking. 

The  atmosphere  grew  dense  with  the  hatred  of  these 
men.  This  was  the  sort  of  impersonal  hate  which  was 
like  the  paralysis  of  snake  bite.  Some  day,  Sidney  thought, 
they  will  measure  a  current  like  this. 

The  mayor,  an  insignificant  man,  felt  himself  warm 
and  backed  by  the  powerful  bigger  men  around  him. 

460 


Mary  Heaton  Vorse 

"Watch  your  step,"  he  said.  "Don't  have  any  meetings, 
or  it  will  be  my  pleasure  to  have  you  all  arrested,  and  to 
keep  you  in  jail  as  long  as  I  can!" 

The  meeting  was  breaking  up.  Everyone  was  standing. 
The  mayor  ran  out  into  the  hall,  consulted  someone,  and 
ran  back. 

"Moreover,  a  group  of  you  loitering  on  the  street  corner 
talking  to  miners,  I'll  call  that  a  meeting!"  Again  he 
ran  out.  At  someone's  bidding  he  returned,  with  further 
orders: 

"If  you  have  any  miners  in  your  room,  I'll  call  that  a 
meeting  too;  and  it  will  be  my  pleasure  to  arrest  you." 

"You  mean  that  we  can't  entertain  our  friends  in  a 
private  sitting-room  which  we've  hired?"  asked  Newman. 

"I  mean  just  that/'  the  mayor  gave  back  with  triumph. 

"We  are  not  here,  I  have  told  you,"  said  Newman 
formally,  "to  go  against  your  ordinances.  But  we  shall 
broadcast  your  terrorism  and  your  disregard  for  consti- 
tutional rights  from  one  end  of  America  to  the  other." 
A  tall  man  towered  over  Newman. 

"I  admire  your  nerve,  coming  down  here  where  you 
don't  know  any  of  the  conditions,"  he  said  slowly. 
"You've  talked  and  read  a  lot  about  terrorism  down  here, 
but  you'll  find  that  when  we  get  ready  to  be  ugly,  we  can 
be  real  ugly.  And  you  can  have  your  stenographer  write 
that  down.  I'll  sign  to  that." 

"I'll  sign  to  that!" 

"I'll  sign  to  that!"  others  echoed. 

"That  means  they're  ready  to  lynch  us,"  Sidney  told 
Newman. 

"Not  quite  so  bad  as  that,"  said  Newman  mildly.  He 
was  keeping  himself  in  hand,  keeping  his  rising  excitement 
from  brimming  over.  He  was  spokesman,  and  had  done 
a  good  job.  A  reporter  from  Knoxville  came  over  to 
Sidney. 

"Say,  don't  they  know,  don't  they  see,"  he  inquired 

461 


Rendezvous 

in  a  low  tone,  "that  these  men  mean  business?  They'll 
do  anything!  You'd  better  get  your  food  distributed  and 
get  out  of  town!" 

The  square  was  empty  of  miners,  who  had  ebbed  away 
toward  the  food  trucks.  But  there  were  the  deputies 
with  their  guns,  and  there  were  the  machine-gun  nests 
in  the  courthouse. 

Newman  asked  Sidney,  "Are  you  coming  to  the  County 
Attorney's  office?"  The  mayor  had  told  them  they  would 
have  to  get  permission  to  hold  meetings  even  outside  of 
town. 

"No,"  said  Sidney.  "I'm  going  to  see  what's  become 
of  the  trucks."  All  of  a  sudden  the  little  studious  band 
seemed  to  Sidney  like  a  high  comedy,  as  it  wandered 
around  from  the  mayor  and  operators  to  the  County  At- 
torney to  get  legal  permission  for  a  meeting.  They  would 
no  more  be  given  permission  than  the  Germans  would 
have  given  permission  to  cross  No  Man's  Land  with 
provisions  for  the  French. 

Sidney  walked  down  a  dirt  road  leading  out  of  town. 
A  bridge  led  over  a  creek.  A  granite  mountain  rose  sheer 
above  it.  The  mud  was  thick  and  gummy  on  the  road, 
ochre-colored.  The  houses  dwindled  off  as  he  walked 
along,  and  became  less  prosperous.  Shacks  of  a  mining 
community  appeared  on  the  mountain  side.  Down  the 
road  at  last  was  a  blue  group  of  men  again — the  food  truck. 

They  were,  after  all,  holding  a  meeting  of  sorts.  Food 
was  being  distributed.  Someone  was  standing  on  the  truck 
speaking,  holding  the  crowd.  Trouble  makers  and  curious 
people  were  prowling  on  the  edge  of  the  crowd.  Deputies 
with  their  guns  were  everywhere. 

And  punctuating  it  all,  the  fantastic  sheriff,  an  embodi- 
ment of  pure  evil,  so  evil  that  he  became  theatrical  and 
comic.  Lean,  long,  with  claw-like  hands,  and  unclean  as 
a  hairy  spider.  How  had  the  clean  hills  uttered  such  a  one? 
Yellow  eyes,  with  a  malevolent,  terrifying  sideways  glance. 

462 


Mary  Heaton  Vorse 

A  killer.  The  movies'  unnatural  exaggeration  of  evil. 
Yet  there,  horribly,  he  was,  in  the  flesh,  his  venom  di- 
rected against  this  innocent  little  company  none  of  whom 
were  agitators,  none  of  them  with  experience  even  in  the 
labor  movement.  This  absurd  little  band  of  mercy  which 
had  come  up  into  this  war  to  quibble  over  constitutional 
rights  and  the  right  of  relief  trucks  to  bring  food  undis- 
turbed. 

Harry  Grimm  had  been  shot  at  dawn  by  a  deputy,  by  a 
killer.  .  .  . 

A  man  named  Nichols  was  talking.  Nichols  was  talking 
like  a  fool,  so  Sidney  thought  from  what  words  he  could 
hear.  "You'll  get  arrested,"  thought  Sidney.  A  girl  who 
belonged  to  the  relief  organization  talked  too.  Now  a 
miner  was  talking.  Now  someone  shouted  to  the  speaker 
from  the  crowd,  something  provocative — 

"Your  own  brother  is  a  deputy,"  cried  the  voice. 

"Whoever  says  that  about  my  brother  is  a  god-damned 
liar!"  This  was  fighting  talk.  The  incredible  sheriff 
whipped  out  two  guns  in  his  claws.  The  deputies  stood 
there,  evil,  triumphant.  The  crowd  began  to  run.  People 
had  drawn  guns  on  both  sides.  For  a  moment  every  thing 
hung  suspended — murder  in  the  air,  war  in  the  air. 

"I'm  going  to  round  up  and  arrest  every  goddam  one 
of  you!"  the  sheriff  was  shouting.  The  onlookers  were 
flying. 

"Let's  get  out  of  here,"  Quinn  said,  "no  use  of  us  all 
getting  shot." 

And  now  suddenly  guns  were  put  up.  The  menace  had 
momentarily  passed.  They  were  arresting  the  girl,  and 
Nichols. 

"I'll  go  back  and  see  that  they  don't  take  the  food," 
Quinn  said,  "and  see  that  it  gets  distributed.  You  go 
and  find  Newman  and  the  others."  They  will  have  been 
arrested,  thought  Sidney.  And  I'll  probably  be  arrested. 

A  woman  drove  up  and  spoke  to  Sidney. 

463 


Rendezvous 

"Are  you  one  of  the  crowd  that  came  up  here?"  she 
asked.  "Did  you  hear  what  they  were  saying  just  now? 
Did  you  hear  how  they  were  stirring  up  the  miners  to 
riot?  We  got  everything  all  quieted  down — and  they're 
stirring  up  the  miners  to  riot,  they're  telling  them  they've 
got  a  right  to  organize,  they've  got  a  right  to  picket!  I 
heard  that  girl  myself,  telling  them  to  hang  on  and  not 
give  up.  They  don't  know  what  they're  doing,  coming 
down  here  and  stirring  up  those  people.  I'd  like  to  take 
you  and  show  you  how  these  folks  live.  They  live  like 
animals,  whole  families  in  a  room. — I'm  a  doctor's  wife. — 
There  is  more  incest  and  feeble-mindedness  in  this  county 
than  anywhere!"  She  was  almost  crying  in  her  emotion, 
a  big  woman,  kind-faced.  Her  words  tumbled  over  each 
other. 

"We're  none  of  us  rich  people,"  she  said.  "These  mines 
are  locally  owned,  and  the  mines — you  know  what  they 
are.  They're  ruined.  We  had  a  depression  before  anyone 
else  did.  We're  doubly  hit.  A  hundred  and  fifty  dollars 
a  month  is  a  big  income  here.  A  hundred  a  month  is  good. 
And  we  give  ten  per  cent  to  our  community  chest.  I 
never  turn  away  anyone  from  my  door.  Days  I  feed  some- 
times six — eight  people.  We  all  do.  When  they  come 
down  from  the  hills  hungry,  we  feed  them.  And  I  work 
all  day  sewing — we've  got  the  miners'  wives  and  the 
women  coming  in  sewing,  to  try  and  clothe  them.  And 
now  you  come  disturbing  us,  stirring  them  up.  You  take 
my  husband,  you  take  me:  We  come  from  poor,  mountain 
folks.  But  we  got  out  and  we  got  ourselves  an  educa- 
tion— "  Her  words  flowed  over  Sidney,  overwhelming 
him.  He  could  see  the  little  band  as  the  community,  as 
this  undoubtedly  kind  woman,  saw  them,  with  her  classic 
cry:  "The  workers  like  to  live  like  pigs!" 

She  was  the  voice  of  the  comfortable  population.  She 
was  not  one  of  the  combatants.  She  was  supporting  her 
side  behind  the  lines. 

464 


Mary  Heaton  Vorse 

"I  wonder  if  she  thought  Harry  Grimm  should  be 
killed?"  thought  Sidney.  He  felt  sure  she  would,  because 
this  was  a  war,  and  all  people  who  stirred  up  the  miners 
were  evidently  Bolshevists,  and  all  Bolshevists  should  be 
shot  as  enemies  of  society. 

Quinn  came  hurrying  up  to  Sidney.  "They've  arrested 
fifty  of  the  miners.  They're  holding  them  for  criminal 
syndicalism.  They've  got  Nichols,  and  Mary  Ray." 

"Is  the  food  distributed?"  asked  Sidney. 

"Deputies  got  about  one  hundred  pounds,  the  miners 
got  the  rest,"  said  Quinn.  They  had  arrived  at  the  square. 
The  elegant  county  attorney  was  just  saying  goodbye  to 
Newman  and  the  other  three.  He  had  kept  them  there, 
purposely.  He  was  beautifully  dressed,  the  picture  of  a 
courteous  Southern  gentleman,  and  he  grinned  a  sardonic 
goodbye. 

Looking  back  on  it  afterwards,  it  seemed  humorous 
that  they  sat  that  evening,  all  of  them  in  the  sitting  room, 
discussing  their  plans  for  the  next  day — how  they  were 
going  to  take  food  into  the  next  county,  and  how  they 
were  going  to  visit  the  mining  camps  there.  While  they 
were  discussing  their  plans,  a  knock  came  at  the  door. 
Two  miners  came  in. 

"We  come  to  tell  you  about  Harry  Grimm,"  one  of 
them  said.  "Seems  like  he's  dying.  We  thought  maybe 
someone  of  you  might  like  to  come  over  to  the  hospital. 
Someone  from  his  own  home  town,  maybe." 

Newman  asked,  "Do  you  know  how  it  happened?  All 
we  heard  was  that  he  was  wounded."  One  of  the  miners, 
a  young  fellow  in  his  early  twenties  with  a  clear  profile 
and  bright  hair  answered — 

"Harry  was  staying  to  my  house  last  night,  and  he  didn't 
know  if  he'd  go  over  the  mountain  path  or  by  the  jitney 
railway.  I  said,  '  I  hate  for  you  to  go  by  the  railway.  You 
best  keep  to  the  mountain.  For  I  fear  they'll  try  and 
get  you.' 

465 


Rendezvous 

"He  said,  'I've  got  no  time  for  the  mountain.  I've  got 
to  go  by  the  shortest  way  if  I'm  to  meet  them.'  He  was 
coming,  picking  up  miners  along  the  way,  to  meet  you." 

Thoughts  spun  in  Sidney's  head.  All  his  life,  coming 
nearer  and  nearer  to  him,  had  been  Harry  Grimm.  All 
their  lives  they  had  been  approaching  each  other.  They 
had  walked  around  New  York's  streets  at  the  same  time. 
At -the  same  time,  seeing  the  same  things,  viewing  the 
same  spectacles,  maybe,  been  together  without  knowing 
each  other  in  the  same  places.  All  the  time  they  had  been 
walking  along  different  roads  which  converged,  closer  and 
closer.  Sidney  felt  he  knew  Harry  Grimm  very  well,  as 
though  he  had  always  known  him. 

"We  jest  thought,  seeing  how  he  was  coming  to  meet 
you,  you'd  like  maybe  one  of  you  to  go  over  to  the  hos- 
pital," the  boy  repeated. 

"How  far  is  it?"  asked  Quinn. 

"'T'ain't  fur,"  said  Jim.    "Maybe  twenty  mile." 

"How  did  it  happen?"  Newman  asked  again. 

"He  was  a-walkin'  down  by  the  track  with  two  other 
fellas.  Two  deputies  come  by  on  the  hand  car  that  runs 
the  railways.  The  deputies  backed  up  the  car  and  stopped 
in  front  of  the  boys.  Then  Art  Dillon  shot  Harry,  and 
Ned  Travers  covered  the  other  boys.  They  loaded  Harry 
on  the  truck  and  arrested  the  others.  They  set  Harry  on 
a  stone  outside  the  hospital.  He  set  there  an  hour,  bleed- 
ing from  the  stomach.  They  wouldn't  take  him  in  unless 
someone  went  responsible  for  his  doctor's  bill.  I  heard 
he  was  shot,  and  I  went  to  see  him  at  the  hospital. 

"I  said,  'Buddy,  I'm  shore  sorry  I  wasn't  with  you.' 
He  was  awful  sleepy.  I  touched  his  face  with  my  hand 
and  asked  if  he  knew  me.  He  said  he  did. 

"'But  I  got  a  hurtin'  pain  in  my  side,  and  I  feel  awful 
sleepy,'  he  said. 

"Then  I  said,  'I  got  word  that  my  house  is  raided,  and 
they're  looking  for  me,  so  I'll  have  to  clear  out  and  go, 

466 


Mary  Heaton  Vorse 

because  they're  after  me.'  They  tole  me  when  I  come 
away  that  he  was  sinkin'  fast,  so  I  come  here  for  you." 

Newman  asked,  "What  did  they  raid  you  for?  Why  do 
they  want  you?" 

"I'd  been  speakin'  to  the  miners — organizin'.  Ef  you're 
hongry,  you're  a  Red,  in  Dell  county.  Ef  you  tell  about 
it,  you're  a  criminal  syndicalist  and  a  Bolshevik.  I  said, 
4  We  miners  are  hongry' — so  they  raided  my  house  and 
got  a  warrant  out  for  me." 

"You  oughtn't  be  here  now,"  said  Quinn. 

"I  expect  not;  but  they  won't  be  watchin'  for  me  yere. 
I  had  to  come  and  git  one  of  you." 

"I'd  like  to  go,"  said  Sidney.  He  rose,  and  no  one 
stopped  him.  This  suddenly  seemed  to  him  the  most 
important  thing  to  do.  He  felt  as  though  this  were  why 
he  had  come — that  he  had  had  an  appointment  all  his 
life  with  Harry  Grimm  as  they  came  together  on  their 
converging  paths,  as  though  Harry  Grimm  had  something 
of  deep  importance  to  tell  him.  "He  knows  why  he  came; 
he'll  tell  me  why  I. came,"  Sidney  thought. 

"All  right,"  Newman  said.  "You  go,  Moore,  if  you 
want  to."  He  seemed  relieved.  It  wasn't  important  to 
anyone  else,  with  all  their  concern. 

"Lem  Carter's  got  his  Ford  downstairs  on  the  street," 
said  Jim.  The  lobby  was  full  of  loafing  men.  Some  of 
them  Sidney  recognized  from  the  afternoon.  They  turned 
their  heads  to  stare  at  Jim  and  the  older  miner,  who 
hadn't  talked  at  all,  who  had  come  to  drive  Jim.  They 
could  feel  the  hate  of  these  men  streaming  out  toward 
them.  They  got  into  the  car;  Jim  and  Sidney  sat  behind, 
and  Lem  Carter  drove.  Lem  spoke  for  the  first  time. 

"I  don't  like  the  looks  o'  them  men,"  he  said.  "They's 
too  many  men  for  this  time  o'  night.  I  heered  talk  of 
night  riders." 

A  feeling  of  cold  crawled  up  Sidney's  back.  Not  appre- 
hension, but  as  though  he  were  steeling  himself  for  an 

467 


Rendezvous 

attack.     There  was  silence  in  the  car,  then  Lem  Carter 
turned  his  head  slightly — 

"I  heered  how  they  might  kidnap  the  lot  o'  you  and  ride 
you  out  o'  the  State." 

"I'll  be  glad  when  yore  out,"  said  Jim.  "I'll  certainly 
be  more  easy  in  my  mind  when  yore  over  the  line.  I  ben 
mighty  worried  about  you  sense  they  shot  Harry.  He 
was  the  nicest  feller  you  ever  knew.  They  wasn't  any- 
body around  here  but  whut  liked  Harry.  We  felt  like 
he  was  kin.  He  talked  awful  nice  and  awful  sensible.  He 
was  the  only  foreign  organizer  they  was.  That's  why 
they  shot  him.  It's  an  awful  pity.  My  sister's  goin'  to 
feel  awful  bad.  When  she  went  North  to  collect  money, 
she  said  to  me — 

"'Honey,  look  out  for  Harry.  Don't  let  them  git  him. 
I  kin  feel  he  don't  sense  the  danger  yere.'  That  was  it. 
We  couldn't  make  him  see.  He  wouldn't  believe  that 
they  was  out  to  git  him.  But  they  was,  and  they  got 
him." 

They  were  silent.  The  car  bumped  on  through  the 
darkness.  Sidney  felt  as  though  he  knew  all  about  this 
boy  he  had  never  seen.  He  was  a  little  younger  than 
himself.  He  belonged  to  the  youth  movement,  and  he 
had  come  here  to  organize. 

"I  hope  we  git  there  in  time,"  said  Jim.  "I  hope  he's 
conscious.  It'll  mean  an  awful  lot  to  his  folks  if  someone 
from  his  home  was  with  him." 

Lem  Carter  said,  "Yeah,  I'll  sure  be  glad  when  you  git 
over  the  line.  That  crowd  in  the  hotel  lobby  warn't 
there  for  no  good."  A  spreading  sense  of  imminent  evil 
flowed  over  Sidney.  Life  was  becoming  simplified,  as  it 
was  to  Jim,  as  it  was  to  Lem.  It  was  becoming  black  and 
white. 

"Here  we  are,"  said  Lem  Carter.  They  were  going 
through  the  streets  of  a  tidy  town.  They  drew  up  in  front 
of  a  new  brick  building,  and  went  in. 

468 


Mary  Heaton  Vorse 

"How  is  he?"  Jim  asked  the  nurse. 

"He's  conscious  just  now.  He's  rallied."  Jim  stared 
at  the  nurse.  A  look  of  deep  intelligence  passed  between 
the  two.  She  shook  her  head  gravely. 

"Not  for  long,"  she  said. 

The  boy  Harry  Grimm  was  lying  with  open  eyes.  All 
color  had  drained  away  under  his  tan,  and  his  lips  were 
pale.  He  had  thick  black  hair.  Jim  and  Sidney  stood  there, 
the  nurse  on  one  side.  Harry  Grimm  looked  at  them  with 
sightless  eyes.  Jim  spoke  gently. 

"Buddy,  do  you  know  me?"  he  asked.  The  boy  smiled 
very  slightly,  his  lips  outlined,  "Yes,  Jim." 

"Buddy,"  said  Jim,  "I  brought  a  friend  from  yore 
home  town.  Don't  you  want  to  send  a  message  to  yore 
folks?  He's  one  o'  the  fellers  you  was  goin'  to  meet  to- 
day." The  dying  boy's  face  brightened.  He  spoke  very 
low,  so  that  Sidney  had  to  bend  close  to  him. 

"Tell  them,"  he  said,  "I'm  some  lucky  they  didn't  kill 
me."  The  effort  had  been  too  great.  He  closed  his  eyes. 
A  frightful  pain  gripped  Sidney,  a  sense  of  anguish  and 
loss  and  fury  came  over  him.  It  was  as  if  indeed  this  boy 
had  been  his  childhood  friend,  from  his  home  town.  The 
nurse  held  the  boy's  pulse.  She  shook  her  head  gently. 
She  said  in  a  low  tone — 

"You'd  best  go  now." 

They  walked  out  quietly.  Sidney's  heart  filling,  over- 
flowing with  grief,  with  fury,  grieving  for  a  friend,  a 
murdered  friend. 

"We  kin  'venge  him,"  Jim  said  gently. 

Now  Sidney  knew  what  he  had  come  for.  He  had  come 
up  to  find  that  his  world  was  divided  into  two  camps. 
He  was  on  the  side  of  his  murdered  friend  Harry  Grimm, 
on  the  side  of  his  friend  Jim,  the  miner.  Lem  Carter  came 
to  meet  them. 

"Git  in,"  he  said.  "I'm  goin'  to  take  you  over  the  line. 
I  ben  phonin'  to  Mapleton.  The  night  riders  has  rounded 

469 


Rendezvous 

up  all  yore  friends  and  taken  them  away.  I'll  git  you  out 
of  Kintucky  over  another  road."  Sidney  got  in  without 
answering. 

"They're  right,"  he  thought.  "Why  shouldn't  they 
kidnap  me?  I  am  their  enemy.  I  am  in  a  war  against 
them." 


470 


RED  OVER  EUROPE 

by 
George  Wetter 


GEORGE  WELLER,  well-known  among  foreign  correspond- 
ents in  Europe  and  at  present  (/pj<5)  in  Greece,  is  the  au- 
thor of  a  brilliant  Harvard  novel,  Not  to  Eat,  Not  for 
Love  (1934). 


RED  OVER  EUROPE 

FOR  fifteen  years,  practically  since  the  end  of  the  war, 
during  which  he  lost  his  little  German  weekly  in  a 
Wisconsin  city,  Eric  Wolf  had  been  correspondent 
in  Vienna  for  the  Traynor  World  Service.  He  used  to 
stay  on  duty  in  the  one  room  office  in  the  Burggasse  later 
than  any  other  American  newspaperman.  In  that  way  he 
sometimes  picked  up  a  revolution  or  a  royal  love  affair 
that  came  in  late  from  the  southern  Balkans.  It  might 
be  too  late  for  Morton  Traynor' s  morning  newspaper  in 
New  York,  but  it  could  always  be  used  in  the  Traynor 
papers  in  Chicago,  or  Denver,  or  Los  Angeles,  on  account 
of  their  later  deadlines. 

Sometimes  Eric  went  to  sleep  on  his  desk.  Then  the 
bicycle  boy  from  the  radio  office  would  let  himself  in 
with  the  key  that  hung  outside  the  door  behind  the  pic- 
ture of  Morton  Traynor.  He  would  read  the  despatch, 
and  if  it  did  not  seem  important  he  would  not  awaken 
Eric,  but  simply  put  an  overcoat  on  the  shoulders  of  the 
sleeping  man  and  turn  off  the  gas  heater  so  that  nothing 
could  happen. 

Eric  was  nearly  twenty  years  older  than  any  of  the 
other  Traynor  men,  but  he  was  never  fired  because  he 
knew  how  to  write  precisely  what  Morton  Traynor  wanted 
from  the  Balkans.  Traynor  wanted  the  Balkans  always 
to  be  "the  breeding  place  of  wars."  He  wanted  royal  love 
affairs  to  have  a  revolution  looming  behind  them,  and  at 
least  a  kiss  in  every  revolution.  After  sending  a  story 
about  the  Roumanian  wheat  situation  Eric  would  get  a 
telegram  from  New  York:  "Traynor  says  always  put 

Reprinted  from  Story,  July  1935,  by  permission  of  the  editors,  and  of  the 
author's  representative,  Harold  Ober. 

473 


Red  over  Europe 

Madame  Lupescu  in  your  Bucharest."  Christmas  after- 
noon he  regularly  heard  from  home:  "Why  you  missed 
Christmas  Eve  boy  princes  throughout  Balkans  hanging 
up  stockings  awaiting  Santa  Claus?" 

Traynor' s  newspapers  sold  love,  politics  and  science, 
poisoned  with  unreality  to  make  them  more  palatable 
to  the  ignorant  and  poor  of  America,  for  whose  clogged 
perpetual  fatigue  the  acids  of  Traynor  were  the  cheapest 
antidote.  What  Traynor  wanted  from  his  foreign  corre- 
spondents was  not  information  about  Europe  but  forget- 
fulness  of  America. 

But  he  also  wanted  co-ordination.  For  example,  when 
the  Traynor  newspapers  were  backing  the  bonus  lobby 
of  the  veterans  in  Washington  everyone  in  Europe,  from 
Amsterdam  to  Warsaw,  received  orders  to  send  New  York 
three  hundred  words  about  how  easily  veterans  in  other 
countries  obtained  bonuses.  None  of  the  countries  had  a 
bonus  resembling  the  American  proposal,  and  many  of 
them  were  repudiating  their  pensions.  It  was  particularly 
difficult  to  write  a  bonus  story  from  chronically  neutral 
countries  like  Switzerland  and  Sweden,  but  the  Traynor 
correspondents  had  their  orders  and  they  carried  them  out. 

Another  hard  time  came  for  the  Traynor  World  Service 
when  Morton  Traynor  got  a  frightened  feeling  that  the 
government  was  going  to  nationalize  the  oil  fields,  just 
when  he  was  doing  rather  well  with  some  stuff  he  owned 
out  Long  Beach  way.  Thereupon  the  Traynor  correspond- 
ent in  Geneva  missed  several  League  of  Nations  tea  parties 
while  he  hunted  for  something  Swiss  that  was  being  nation- 
alized just  as  pessimistically  as  oil  threatened  to  be.  He 
chose  watches,  and  oiled  them  well  before  winding. 

Eric  Wolf  knew  he  could  never  explain  the  Traynor 
investment  scheme,  of  which  he  had  a  confidential  copy, 
to  his  subcorrespondents  in  Belgrade,  Budapest,  Sofia, 
Bucharest  and  Athens,  whose  ordinary  despatches  were 
written  in  British  English,  broken  German  and  bastard 

474 


George  Weller 

French,  varied  with  odd  phrases  in  Serbo-Croat,  Walla- 
chian  and  the  slang  of  Macedonian  nationalism.  So  he 
wrote  a  sketch  about  the  discovery  of  oil  fields  in  Hun- 
gary, which  emphatically  would  not  be  federalized,  another 
short  one  from  Belgrade  about  the  Yugoslav  bean  oil 
industry,  six  hundred  majestic  words  about  Roumanian 
petroleum,  two  hundred  witty  ones  about  olive  oil  for 
Athens,  and  finally  a  long  piece  for  himself  from  Austria 
about  Vienna  as  a  center  of  Balkan  oil  nationalism, 
which  was  breeding  another  war. 

A  week  later  he  heard  from  New  York:  "Traynor  says 
fire  Sofia  man  for  neglecting  oil  coverage."  Eric  telephoned 
Sofia  and  arranged  with  the  man  there  to  write  his  stories 
for  the  next  three  months  under  his  cousin's  name,  though 
he  had  already  been  fired  by  Traynor  so  many  times  that 
he  had  few  relatives  left. 

Eric  Wolf,  with  the  fifties  of  his  years  mounting  upon 
him,  sitting  in  his  unpressed  clothes  in  the  office  in  the 
Burggasse,  had  too  many  capitals  to  handle,  too  many 
palace  love  affairs  memorized,  too  many  fallen  cabinets 
incompletely  forgotten.  He  was  always  overlooking  either 
Sofia  or  Budapest. 

The  only  job  harder  than  Eric's  was  to  be  Traynor' s 
correspondent  in  Moscow  after  he  started  his  Americanist 
campaign  against  the  Communists.  If  the  correspondent's 
stories  were  not  sufficiently  anti-Communist  he  would  be 
fired  for  disobeying  orders,  left  in  Moscow  without  a  job. 
If  they  were  anti-Communist  the  correspondent  would  be 
successively  warned,  then  censored,  then  expelled  from 
the  country.  But  an  expelled  correspondent  was  no  heroic 
martyr  to  Traynor;  he  was  rather  an  awkward  failure, 
deserving  demotion  or  discharge.  Traynor  had  the  true 
sportsman's  spirit  of  always  wanting  to  be  on  friendly 
terms  with  the  enemy:  France,  repudiator  of  her  debts, 
and  Morton  Traynor;  the  red  star  of  Moscow  and  Mor- 
ton Traynor,  demon  publisher  and  bond-holding  patriot; 

475 


Red   over  Europe 

the   little  people  of  the   Land  of  the   Rising  Sun   and 
Morton  Traynor,  the  American  yellow  peril. 

One  night  in  May  Eric  Wolf  was  writing  the  regular 
Bulgarian  revolution  story.  Sofia  itself  was  deathly  silent. 
For  hours  there  had  been  no  communication  but  breathless 
hints,  bloody  shrieks  and  hoarse  whispers  from  the  Yugo- 
slav, Roumanian  and  Greek  borders.  What  was  happening 
in  Bulgaria?  Nothing  was  certain  but  the  name  of  the 
leading  actor,  General  Revodoff,  but  that  was  enough 
for  Eric.  He  knew  the  General  and  he  knew  what  he  would 
say.  He  took  a  big  drink  of  beer,  stared  across  the  street 
at  a  man  and  woman  who  had  entered  a  room  in  the  Rit- 
terhof  Hotel  and  immediately  pulled  down  the  curtain 
tight  against  the  windowsill,  and  began  to  write: 

"In  an  exclusive  interview  to  the  correspondent  of  the 
Traynor  World  Service  in  Sofia  today  General  Revodoff, 
Bulgaria's  new  strong  man,  predicted  that  his  regime 
would  continue  the  friendly  foreign  policy  of  former  gov- 
ernments and  would  stabilize  the  national  currency,  but 
would  crush  mercilessly  any  attempt  by  Marxists,  Reds, 
or  Communists  to  seize  the  reins  of  power." 

I  hope  nothing  bad  has  happened  to  the  General,  Eric 
thought,  staring  at  the  Ritterhof  Hotel.  He  wrote  on: 

"  When  asked  if  hints  that  Olga  Popoff,  platinum  blonde 
who  has  been  named  for  a  Hollywood  contract,  had  put 
her  vermilion  tinted  fingernail  in  the  palace  pie,  were 
based  on  facts,  General  Revodoff  said:  'Naturally  not. 
The  new  government  is  in  the  hands  of  sober  army  officers, 
not  blonde  Hollywood  aspirates.'" 

Eric  was  erasing  "aspirates"  to  put  in  " aspirants" 
when  Byron  Bean  walked  into  the  office. 

Byron  Bean  was  the  greatest  radical  shooter  on  the 
Traynor  staff.  His  start  had  been  made  four  years  earlier, 
covering  the  Los  Angeles  red  squad,  and  his  subsequent 
rise  was  speedy.  He  had  been  in  Europe  hardly  six  months 

476 


George  Weller 

but  he  was  a  boulevardier  already,  carried  a  yellow  cane, 
wore  gloves  all  but  the  hottest  days  of  summer,  and 
turned  on  his  hips  whenever  a  beautiful  woman  passed, 
lacking  only  a  spade-shaped  beard  to  point  at  her.  But 
he  would  never  have  that  beard.  His  face  was  smooth  and 
bald  all  over,  and  he  looked  more  like  a  wornout  chorus 
man  than  the  alert  discoverer  of  a  dozen  Communist 
plots. 

"Don't  let  me  interrupt  your  story,  Mr.  Wolf,"  he  said 
familiarly.  "Byron  Bean  of  the  Moscow  office." 

"Glad  to  see  you,"  said  Eric,  ready  to  sympathize. 
"Sit  down.  I'm  just  doing  a  little  piece  for  tomorrow." 

Bean  leaned  over  the  typewriter,  though  uninvited, 
and  said,  "Oh,  yes,  Bulgaria."  It  was  as  though  he  said, 
oh,  of  course,  that  Sarajevo  murder.  He  seated  himself 
and  held  his  cane  between  his  knees,  rotating  it  in  his 
fingers  with  his  egg-like  chin  close  above. 

"How  do  you  like  Vienna  after  Moscow?"  asked  Eric, 
putting  the  Pester  Lloyd  under  his  beer  mug  and  unob- 
trusively wiping  away  the  ring. 

"I  believe,"  said  Byron  Bean  after  consideration,  "that 
I  am  going  to  like  Vienna."  He  smiled  with  a  kind  of 
Tia  Juana  urbanity.  "The  beauty  of  the  women  of  Vienna 
is  famous  the  world  over,"  he  said  without  a  blink. 

That  was  destined  to  be  the  lead  of  Byron  Bean's  first 
story  from  the  Balkans.  The  London  office  telephoned 
that  night  to  say  that  Mr.  Bean  would  replace  Mr.  Wolf 
as  correspondent  in  Vienna,  upon  orders  from  Mr.  Traynor 
in  New  York.  Mr.  Wolf  was  to  complete  the  remaining 
nine  days  of  the  month,  and  would  receive  a  fortnight's 
salary  in  advance, 

Byron  Bean  said  he  thought  he  would  take  a  week's 
rest  in  the  Tyrol,  and  checked  out  of  his  hotel.  Three 
days  later  Eric  got  a  confidential  letter  from  the  cor- 
respondent in  Belgrade  saying  that  Mr.  Bean  had  made 

477 


Red  over  Europe 

an  unannounced  visit  at  his  home.  Later  there  followed 
letters  from  the  Traynor  World  Service  correspondents  in 
Sofia,  Athens,  Bucharest  and  Budapest,  enabling  Eric  to 
trace  the  itinerary  of  Byron  Bean's  journey. 

"How  did  you  like  the  Tyrol,  Mr.  Bean?"  he  inquired, 
when  the  new  correspondent  came  in  and  hung  up  his 
hat  on  the  last  night  of  the  month. 

"  I  had  a  short  trip  into  Yugoslavia  and  a  nice  long  rest, 
thank  you,"  said  Byron  Bean. 

"If  you  can,"  said  Eric,  "you  ought  to  try  to  visit  some 
of  these  Balkan  capitals  personally." 

"I  hope  to  have  that  opportunity,"  pronounced  Byron 
Bean  gravely,  peeling  off  his  tight  gloves. 

Some  ceremony  seemed  to  be  called  for,  so  they  shook 
hands.  Then  Byron  Bean  quickly  sat  down  at  the  type- 
writer. Eric  wrapped  up  his  beer  mug  in  a  copy  of  the 
Abendblatt  and  left  the  office  for  the  last  time. 

Eric  planned  to  go  back  to  Milwaukee  and  look  for  a  job 
and  see  if  any  of  the  girls  and  fellows  of  the  old  German- 
American  crowd  he  used  to  know  were  still  around.  But 
it  was  not  easy  to  leave  Vienna,  nor  did  it  seem  a  trifle 
to  say  farewell  to  all  those  Balkan  capitals  over  whose 
tumbling  destinies  he  had  watched  for  fifteen  years.  He 
decided  to  make  a  farewell  tour  and  perhaps  give  his 
former  assistants  some  pointers  on  how  to  get  along  with 
Byron  Bean. 

In  Budapest  the  Hungarian  correspondent  made  him 
stay  at  his  home  and  wanted  to  try  to  get  him  a  soft  job 
on  the  publicity  staff  of  the  "Justice  for  Hungary"  revi- 
sionist committee.  In  Belgrade  the  Serbian  Racich,  who 
had  an  apartment  with  one  of  the  dancers  at  the  Opera, 
made  him  stay  with  his  mother's  family.  Eric  soon  found 
himself  getting  into  a  complicated  way  with  Racich's 
sister  Olga,  who  was  about  thirty  years  old,  with  eye- 
brows so  black  and  mouth  so  red  and  expectant  that  he 

478 


George  Weller 

did  not  stop  worrying  about  himself  until  he  was  aboard 
the  Simplon-Orient  for  Athens. 

At  Skolpje,  in  southern  Serbia,  he  changed  his  plans 
and  turned  off  for  Bulgaria.  That  night  he  was  unpacking 
his  suitcases  at  the  house  of  Igor  Gradoff,  correspondent 
of  the  Traynor  World  Service  in  Sofia. 

Gradoff,  a  tall  gentle  man  with  an  easily  surprised  face, 
had  once  been  a  distributor  of  American  films  in  Sofia 
but  was  now  wholly  dependent  on  the  Traynor  job  and 
his  wife's  small  inheritance.  What  little  confidence  he  had 
in  himself  had  dissolved  in  the  face  of  Byron  Bean's 
searching  questions,  and  Eric  found  him  shaken. 

Gradoff  led  Eric  into  a  little  parlor  filled  with  pictures 
of  his  relations,  many  of  whom  had  been  nominally  cor- 
respondents of  the  Traynor  World  Service  and  fired  in 
his  name.  They  drank  a  little  wine  and  stared  out  the 
window,  wondering  what  would  become  of  them,  whose 
knowledge  and  whose  ignorance  had  always  so  perfectly 
dovetailed. 

They  had  been  sad  together  only  a  short  time  when 
Gradoff  abruptly  threw  up  his  head,  loosing  a  wild  tear- 
drop from  his  cheek,  and  crossed  the  room  to  the  slender- 
legged  desk.  He  handed  Eric  a  letter.  "This  came  by  the 
plane  today,"  he  said  bravely.  "Mr.  Bean's  first  orders. 
Perhaps  you  could  explain  to  me.  .  .  ." 

The  letter  read : 

"TO  ALL  SUBCORRESPONDENTS  IN  THE  BALKANS: 

"The  New  York  office  has  sent  orders  to  this  office  to 
get  busy  on  some  more  red  stories.  Mr.  Traynor  is  again 
taking  up  his  fight  against  extremist  agitation  in  the 
schools  and  universities  of  the  United  States,  and  all  offices 
in  the  Balkans  are  asked  to  do  their  share  by  coming 
through  with  long  fresh  stories,  to  be  sent  by  mail  to 
Vienna. 

"What  is  wanted  are  stories  of  how  each  country  has 
fought  the  menace  of  the  reds,  with  details  of  the  methods 

479 


Red  over  Europe 

used  in  each  country.  This  in  order  to  explain  what 
measures  should  be  taken  against  them  in  the  schools 
and  universities  of  the  United  States." 

Eric  put  the  letter  down  and  found  Gradoff's  face  close 
to  his  own. 

"I  thought,"  said  Gradoff,  "that  you  knew  already 
how  to  take  care  of  the  reds  in  the  United  States.  I  thought 
you  either  put  them  all  together  in  one  place,  or  you 
killed  them." 

"Killed  them?"  said  Eric,  who  came  from  a  fine  old 
American  brewery  family.  "Where  did  you  get  the  idea 
we  treat  anyone  like  that?" 

"Why,  in  the  movies  when  I  used  to  be  in  that  busi- 
ness .  .  ."  began  Gradoff. 

"Those  were  gangsters,  not  reds,"  said  Eric.  "Listen, 
this  letter  is  dated  Tuesday.  That  means  Mr.  Bean  will 
need  your  story  in  Vienna  by  Thursday  night  so  that  it 
can  get  in  next  week's  Sunday  scandal  sheet.  You  have 
to  hurry." 

"Of  course  I  must  hurry,"  said  Gradoff,  motionlessly. 
A  troop  of  bicycle  soldiers  pedalled  rapidly  down  the 
street.  "Mr.  Wolf,  I  naturally  hesitate  to  think  of  asking 
your  help.  I  am  too  indebted  with  you  already.  But  I 
wonder  what  you  would  charge  me  to  write  that  story? 
I  must  be  very  stupid.  I  cannot  understand  what 
Mr.  Traynor — I  mean  Mr.  Bean — really  wants." 

"When  does  your  next  air  mail  plane  leave?"  asked 
Eric.  The  idea  of  writing  a  final  story  for  Gradoff,  after 
his  own  discharge,  went  pleasantly  as  wine  to  the  bottom 
of  his  stomach. 

"Oh,  we  know  all  the  fliers,"  said  Gradoff  quickly. 
"There  is  one  leaving  tomorrow.  If  we  could  arrange 
something  tonight  there  would  be  plenty  of  time  before 
they  go  out  to  the  field  at  dawn — I  often  stay  up  all 
night — I  love  long  walks  at  night — " 

Mrs.  Gradoff  came  in  with  her  hair  down  her  back  and 

480 


George  Weller 

made  coffee  for  them.  Then  she  kissed  her  husband  good 
night  like  a  plump  and  dutiful  daughter  and  went  to  bed. 
Then  they  started  on  the  story. 

" First  of  all,"  said  Eric,  "how  many  reds  are  there  in 
this  whole  country?" 

Mr.  Gradoff  stared  idiotically  at  him.  "Why,-  none 
whatever,"  he  said  blankly. 

"None?"  said  Eric.  "What  do  you  mean?  What  about 
the  wild  young  people?" 

"There  are  neither  youngs  nor  olds,"  said  Mr.  Gradoff 
positively. 

"But  when  they  can't  find  any  work  worth  doing,  don't 
they  get  extreme  ideas?  Don't  they  begin  talking  around 
loose  about  revolution?" 

"Oh,  revolution!"  said  Gradoff,  enlightened.  His  voice 
fell  away.  "I  myself  am  working  for  a  revolution  here," 
he  whispered,  "but  our  revolution  has  nothing  to  do  with 
any  reds." 

Eric  sighed.  "Look  here,  Mr.  Gradoff,"  he  said,  "in 
all  your  experience  as  an  inactive  revolutionary,  have  you 
never  come  upon  some  radical,  some  foreigner,  some  agi- 
tator, some  trouble  maker,  some  red  who  tried  to  make 
trouble  here  in  Sofia?  Never?  Never?" 

Mr.  Gradoff's  pale  brown  eyes  severely  perused  the 
past,  with  slow  waggings  of  his  head  giving  it  a  negative, 
negative,  negative  diagnosis. 

Suddenly  he  leaped  to  his  feet,  agape.  His  eyes  were 
starting  from  his  head.  He  could  not  speak.  He  rapped 
his  forehead  mercilessly  with  his  knuckles  and  thus  beat 
himself  into  articulacy.  "Fool!"  he  said.  "Fool,  fool, 
fool!" 

He  sank  heavily  into  his  chair,  took  a  quick  sip  of  coffee, 
pushed  the  cup  away,  and  spoke,  repentantly  confessing 
his  sin.  "Mr.  Wolf,  I  have  not  told  you  the  truth.  Right 
here  in  Sofia  is  the  man  we  need  for  our  red  story.  Not 
only  is  he  a  red!"  Eric  tried  to  speak  but  Gradoff  held 


Red  over  Europe 

him  off  with  both  hands,  crying,  "Not  only  is  he  a  red! 
Not  only  is  he  a  red,  but  he  is  an  American  red!" 
Eric  smelt  the  news  immediately. 
"Let's  get  a  taxi  and  find  him,  right  now,"  he  said. 
But  Gradoff  caught  his  arm.   "No,  he'd  be  out  of  town. 
He  was  invited  out  to  a  party  at  a  villa.    He  is  an  Amer- 
ican red,  very  tough  and  experienced,  but  still  he  loves 
going- on  parties!     Isn't  that  funny?     But  never  mind! 
I  know  all  about  him.    Sit  down,  Mr.  Wolf." 

Eric  spoke  gravely.  "Gradoff,  you  have  a  better  story 
here  than  any  you  ever  sent  me  in  Vienna.  If  we  handle 
it  right — you  know  what  I  mean,  along  the  lines  of  Amer- 
ican Extremist  Sows  Strife  In  Bulgaria — we  ought  to  be 
able  to  make  Mr.  Traynor  in  New  York  very  much  pleased 
with  your  work."  He  ruffled  through  the  soft  sheets  of 
paper  and  tried  the  pencils  on  his  trembling  thumb,  se- 
lecting one.  "Now,  don't  get  excited,  whatever  you  do. 
We'll  simply  handle  it  as  though  it  was  any  other  ordinary 
story,  won't  we?"  He  took  a  drink  of  water.  "Now,  first 
of  all,  what's  his  name?  He  has  a  name,  hasn't  he?"  he 
scolded  sharply,  to  curb  the  nervousness  in  both  of 
them. 

"His  name."  The  directness  of  the  assault  caught 
Gradoff  unawares.  "His  name  is  something  like  Patasee. 
Yes — Patasee.  A  name  that  is  just  like  Patasee." 

"You're  sure  it  isn't  Genesee?" 

"No,  Patasee."  His  doubt  diminished  as  he  repeated 
the  word,  and  he  continued  the  practice.  "John  Patasee. 
Mr. — John — Patasee."  He  beamed. 

Eric  remained  stern.    "Where  does  he  come  from?" 

"Mr.  John  Patasee  comes  from  Olakoma." 

"You  mean  Oklahoma.   Is  it  Oklahoma  City?" 

Mr.  Gradoff  enjoyed  being  pressed,  grew  brighter  under 
it.  "Certainly.  His  city  is  in  the  territory  of  Oklahoma." 

"State  of  Oklahoma,"  Eric  corrected. 

"State  of  Oklahoma,"  Gradoff  parroted.     "Territory 

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of  Oklahoma/'  he  repeated  in  an  indulgently  gentle  under- 
tone. 

"I  have  his  address,"  said  Eric  tartly.  "Now  then, 
what  are  his  chief  activities?" 

"Well,"  said  Mr.  Gradoff,  leaning  back  and  narrowing 
his  eyes  thoughtfully  to  show  that  he  was  an  old  Traynor 
correspondent  and  knew  exactly  when  the  acme  of  any 
narrative  was  reached,  "I  should  say  that  Mr.  Patasee's 
chief  activity  is  drinking.  Yes — yes.  Mr.  Patasee  is  very 
much  of  a  drinker.  When  we  take  him  into  a  bar  and  offer 
to  him,  he  will  drink  and  drink  and  drink.  And  yet," 
he  shook  his  finger  under  Eric's  nose,  giving  reproof  for 
reproof,  "Mr.  Patasee  is  never  drunk.  He  will  drink 
all  that  is  bought  for  him,  and  yet  never  be  drunk,"  he 
concluded  in  a  kind  of  tender  reverence. 

"When  did  he  get  here?"  Eric  shot  out. 

"Two  months  ago,"  pronounced  Mr.  Gradoff  slowly 
and  dreamily.  Perceiving  that  more  was  expected  of  him 
he  continued,  "Drinking,  drinking,  drinking.  .  .  .  Oh,  but 
Mr.  Patasee  can  support  it!  He  is  a  great  dark  man  of  at 
least  a  hundred  kilos.  I  have  seen  him  take  four  packs 
of  playing  cards  at  once — then  rrrr-ii-ip — he  tored  them 
all  to  pieces!" 

"But  how  does  he  work?   That's  the  story." 

"Mr.  Patasee  does  not  have  to  work.  He  just  travels 
through  Europe.  He  has  many  friends." 

"I  mean,  how  does  he  work  the  red  propaganda?" 

"Oh,  that?"  said  Gradoff,  with  a  look  of  deep  con- 
spiracy. "You  mean  how  does  he  propagandize  for  the 
other  reds?" 

"Does  he  propagandize,  as  you  call  it,  against  the 
United  States?" 

"All  the  time!  He  says  no  red  can  live  there  and  he 
much  rather  live  in  Europe." 

"He  sounds  like  a  pretty  clever  man,"  said  Eric. 

"Clever?   He  is  like  a  diplomat!   All  the  time  he  talks 

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Red  over  Europe 

against  the  government  of  Washington,  and  immediately 
after  he  tells  us  how  beautiful  was  his  life  in  the  territory 
of  Oklahoma,  where  every  man  used  to  be  equal,  just  like 
his  neighbor,  until  the  Washington  government  interfered." 

"So  Oklahoma  was  just  like  Russia,  eh?"  smiled  Eric. 

"A  real  soviet,  it  was,"  said  Gradoff  lyrically.  "Every- 
body equal.  Everybody  going  out  hunting  together." 

"How  do  his  ideas  catch  on?"  asked  Eric. 

"Wonderful!"  cried  Mr.  Gradoff.  "Every  one  of  the 
best  people  in  Sofia  all  want  to  be  red — the  Moussorgoffs, 
the  Probikoffs,  the  retired  railroad  director  Diploff  and 
his  daughter — all  want  to  go  to  Oklahoma." 

Eric  looked  the  Bulgarian  straight  in  the  eye.  "Has  it 
occurred  to  Director  Diploff  to  wonder  why  the  rest  of 
the  United  States  haven't  gone  red  like  the  place  where 
Mr.  Patasee  claims  he  comes  from?" 

"But  they  think  it  is  very  foolish!"  exploded  Gradoff, 
spreading  his  hands  helplessly.  "They  would  like  to  know 
why.  .  .  ." 

"Never  mind,"  said  Eric,  patting  his  hand  gently. 
"That's  enough  for  our  story.  You  sign  yourself  Igor  Gra- 
doff now,  don't  you?" 

Gradoff  unhooded  his  heavy  old  French  typewriter, 
but  at  Eric's  first  experimental  pickings  his  wife  com- 
plained through  the  door  that  she  couldn't  sleep.  So  they 
went  out  and  hired  a  hotel  room  and  wrote  the  story 
there,  Gradoff  lying  on  the  bed  with  a  cigarette  repeating 
musingly:  "Mr.  John — Patasee — state — Oklahoma — ter- 
ritory— Oklahoma — drinking — drinking.  .  .  ." 

Two  nights  later  Gradoff  got  a  telegram  from  Byron 
Bean:  "Good  story  send  another  next  week  stop  make  it 
about  woman  communist  stop  if  possible  royal  angle  also." 

"Mr.  Wolf,"  said  Gradoff,  "what  would  you  advise?" 

"Is  Mr.  Patasee  married?"  asked  Eric. 

"No,"  Gradoff  replied.  "All  the  girls  in  Sofia  are  in 

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George  Weller 

love  with  him,  but  he  don't  marry  any.  He  just  make 
love  to  those  he  can." 

"Then  you're  out  of  luck,"  said  Eric.  "All  you  can  do 
is  to  write  about  some  lady  no  one  ever  heard  of  and  call 
her  the  Lupescu  of  Bulgaria,  or  the  Redheaded  Red." 
For  himself  the  fun  was  over;  he  had  written  his  last 
story